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New Option For Tonsillectomy Surgery

Frederic E. Levy, MD

Tonsillectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the U.S. Nationally, about 600,000 people have their tonsils removed each year. Standard tonsillectomies have improved over the years, they are now outpatient procedures. The procedure has virtually a 100% success rate in curing chronic throat infections and in relieving throat obstruction caused by enlarged tonsils (and adenoids). However, it is well known that this is a painful procedure with a difficult recovery period.

Tonsils and adenoids are lymph-like soft tissue located in the back of the throat. They may help your body fight infection by producing antibodies to combat bacteria that enter through the mouth and nose. * Tonsils and adenoids can cause health problems when they become infected or obstruct normal breathing. Symptoms of tonsil infections include: fever, persistent sore throat, redness or whitish discharge in the tonsil area and tender lymph nodes on the side of the neck. Enlarged tonsils may interfere with breathing, sleeping, swallowing and speaking. They may also cause obstructive sleep apnea, which involves stoppage of breathing while sleeping and tiredness during the day. Tonsils and adenoids are typically treated with antibiotics or surgically removed.

Standard tonsillectomies use traditional surgical instruments such as scalpels and scissors along with electrocautery devices. Sometimes a laser is used. A newer alternative is known as Coblation. Unlike procedures that require relatively high temperatures to seal blood vessels, Coblation uses low temperature radiofrequency energy, applied through saline solution. Since the surgery is performed at considerably lower temperature levels, there is less postoperative pain and, usually, a quicker recovery time. Fortunately, for the patient, this means a faster return to a normal diet and activities. The procedure became available in 2001 and has been performed by some ENT Carolina surgeons, since it was introduced.