The number of American children having their tonsils removed jumped a whopping 74% from 1996 to 2006. You would think that with this kind of spike, there would be significant data outlining the benefits of tonsillectomies and less about the possible negative outcomes that might happen years after the procedure. But at least one study shows that tonsil removal might not only be unnecessary, but potentially dangerous – increasing the person’s risk of heart attack.
A Swedish study looked at all citizens of Sweden below the age of 20 who had their tonsils removed (they also looked at appendectomies). The researchers then followed the patients for an average of 23.5 years to try and determine their risk for a heart attack.
When compared with those who didn’t have their tonsils removed, the tonsillectomy patients had an increased risk of early heart attack. For those who didn’t have tonsils, the risk was increased 44%. (For those who had their appendix removed, it was a 33% increase).
Nutritionist Byron Richards of Wellness Resources says you cannot remove an important part of the lymphatic system without some sort of repercussions. Digestive problems and lymphatic congestion leading to stiffness, mucous, and food sensitivities are also common in those with no tonsils. This latest study just affirms his advice that people (and especially parents) look to heal their children rather than remove their organs.
The study abstract concludes:
“We found a higher risk of AMI related to surgical removal of the tonsils and appendix before age 20. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that subtle alterations in immune function following these operations may alter the subsequent cardiovascular risk, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings and to explore possible mechanisms.”
Tonsils are most often removed in children with reoccurring symptoms of severe sore throats. Research shows, however, that they only actually help in the most serious of cases, and that they are employed in relatively minor cases, making them a wholly unnecessary procedure.
Sometimes tonsils are removed in people who suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that can stop you from breathing at night. But, this is done with very little evidence supporting it’s effectiveness.
“It’s a silent epidemic of unnecessary care,” says David Goodman of Dartmouth Atlas. “In most instances, it’s done for patients with much less recurrent symptoms than should be indicated. I think a lot of this is unbeknownst to providers.”
So, why are they doing it? It might not be about the money as tonsillectomies are not a lucrative business. Instead, it could just be because that’s what’s been done for years. If this is the case, it’s time for doctors to wake up. Not only are they putting children under anesthesia for a potentially worthless procedure, they could be putting their lives on the line with an increased risk of heart attack.