Tonsillectomy Procedures Linked to Childhood Obesity

Is a Tonsillectomy the Cause of an Obese Child?

A tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) is a very common surgical procedure performed on children, which is estimated to occur in more than half a million U.S. children every year. Recently, a study conducted at the Saint Louis University, which was led by pediatric ENT specialist Dr. Anita Jeyakumar, concluded tonsillectomies may be linked to causing childhood obesity. This team of researchers strived to discover the link behind tonsil removals and obesity in children.

Analyzing the Statistics

To discover the link, the team of researchers analyzed nine studies conducted between 1970 and 2009. Using the statistics from these studies conducted on more than 800 children, the researchers placed the children in three categories. Body mass index was used to place them into the categories. In one category, 127 children had gained weight by as much as 75%. The second category consisted of 250 children who gained as much as 75% body weight after the tonsillectomy. The third category consisted of the remaining children.

Results concluded children who under went a tonsillectomy had an increased body mass index of as much as 5.5%. In some cases, children gained weight in as little as six month after the surgery. Children who had their tonsils and adenoids removed had an increased risk for obesity. For example, one study involving 249 children who had both their tonsils and adenoids removed, at least 50% of these children gained weight.

Tonsillectomy Linked to Obesity in Childhood

The results of the study concluded there is indeed a link between tonsillectomies and childhood obesity. However, the seriousness of the link may be minimal because the number of childhood obesity cases has drastically increased over the past 20 years; therefore, a tonsillectomy probably is not the only cause of the obesity in these children. There are numerous factors that can lead to the obesity of children after a tonsillectomy, resulting in the fact the procedure its self is not responsible for the weight gain.

“Children with chronic tonsillitis may have dysphagia or odynophagia that may lead to a reduced calorie intake,” said study leader Dr. Anita Jeyakumar. Dr. Jeyakumar goes on to state, “When the diseased tonsils are removed, the child then is able to consume additional calories. Parents may also feel impelled to over-feed their child when recovering from chronic illness or surgery, further adding to caloric intake and weight gain.”

Currently, it is estimated 33% of American children are considered to be overweight and an additional 17% are obese, causing a reason for concern as the childhood obesity epidemic continues to rise. However, although there appears to be a link between tonsillectomies and obesity, parents shouldn’t have the added obesity concern should their child need a tonsillectomy.

References:

“Tonsil Stone Removal” Health Guide HQ
“Tonsil Removal Linked to Childhood Obesity” NYPost