Surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoid glands used to be about as common for kids as getting braces on the teeth. Bill Cosby had a hilarious comedy routine about tonsillectomy and “the big lie.” (The lie was: “Afterwards you can have all the ice cream you can eat,” when you then discover your throat is too sore to swallow.)
But tonsil and adenoid removal is no joke. It is serious surgery, and when something bad happens to the patient, usually a child, a malpractice investigation is appropriate to determine if a lawsuit should be brought.
Child safety advocates have argued for years that tonsillectomy is done too often – exposing children to the risks of an operation they may not need — mainly from anesthesia and bleeding. Because the tonsils are situated at the junction of several blood vessels, tonsillectomy carries a fairly high risk of bleeding.
It’s been known for decades that children’s health in areas with low rates of tonsillectomy is no worse than in areas in which many tonsillectomies are performed. But the operation still gets done for preventive reasons.
A group of ear-nose-throat surgeons recently published a review of 154 malpractice lawsuits and claims over 22 years in the files of 16 insurance companies. They found these major categories of injuries complained of:
- Bleeding complications (27 cases)
- Airway fire (two cases)
- Other surgical burns (28 cases)
- Consent issues (nine cases)
- Failing to get all the tissue out, or tissue growing back (nine cases)
- Medication problems (nine cases)
- All others (70 cases).
In 2011, the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery issued the first-ever clinical guidelines for tonsillectomy in children in the U.S.
Read more about the tonsillectomy guidelines in Patrick Malone’s child safety blog.
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