Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

Tonsillectomy May Lead to Overweight Children


If your child has a tonsillectomy, will he or she gain too much weight? A new study has found that children who have their tonsils removed are at increased risk of becoming overweight.

What’s the link between tonsillectomy and overweight?

More than 530,000 tonsillectomies are performed in the United States each year in children younger than 15 years, and it is the most common major surgical procedure done in children. The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery notes that about 80 percent of these surgeries are performed because the children have obstructive sleep problems.

In the new study, which appears in the journal Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, the authors evaluated data from 795 children aged 0 to 18 years, grouped as either normal weight or overweight, who had undergone tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy. In this sample, 47.7 percent of the children underwent surgery primarily because of sleep-disordered breathing.

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

The authors reported on three groups of studies, with three studies in each group. In one group involving 127 children, body mass index increased by 5.5 to 8.2 percent. In a second group, which included 419 patients, standardized weight scores increased in 46 to 100 percent of the children. The third group encompassed 249 patients, of which 50 to 75 percent of the children gained weight after adenoidectomy.

Given the epidemic of childhood overweight and obesity in the United States, and the serious cardiovascular, diabetes, and other health risks it places on children, efforts to prevent and curb the weight problem are paramount. Results of this study highlight one more area on which parents and healthcare providers should focus.

The authors recommend that parents of children who are scheduled to undergo tonsillectomy be provided with dietary and lifestyle information. In addition, parents can get advice regarding tonsillectomy and after-surgery care from the new guidelines recently published in Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

Author Anita Jeyakumar, MD, notes that the link between overweight kids and tonsillectomy may be related to children who have dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or odynophagia (painful swallowing), which would cause them to eat less. After surgery, however, “Parents may also feel impelled to over-feed their child when recovering from chronic illness or surgery,” said Jeyakumer, “further adding to calorie intake and weight gain.”

Jeyakumer A et al. Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery 2011 Feb; 144(2): 154-58