Childhood tonsillectomy: Who is referred and what treatment choices are made? Baseline findings from the North of England and Scotland Study of Tonsillectomy and Adenotonsillectomy in Children (NESSTAC)

Catherine Lock*, Janet Wilson, Nick Steen, Martin Eccles, Katie Brittain, Sean Carrie, Ray Clarke, Haytham Kubba, Chris Raine, Andrew Zarod, John Bond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Tonsillectomies are frequently performed, yet variations exist in tonsillectomy rates. Clinicians use guidelines, but complex psychosocial infl uences on childhood tonsillectomy include anecdotal evidence of parental enthusiasm. Studies indicate that undergoing preferred treatment improves outcome. Despite the enthusiasm with which tonsillectomy is offered and sought, there is little evidence of efficacy. This resulted in a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the costeffectiveness of (adeno)tonsillectomy in children with recurrent sore throats. Objective: To compare characteristics of children entering the randomised trial with those recruited to a parallel, non-randomised study, to establish trends in referral and patient preferences for treatment. Design: Baseline data from a randomised controlled trial with parallel non-randomised preference study, comparing surgical intervention with medical treatment in children aged 4-15 years with recurrent sore throat referred to fi ve secondary care otolaryngology departments located in the north of England or west central Scotland. Results: Centres assessed 1546 children; 21% were not eligible for tonsillectomy. Among older children (8-15 years), girls were signifi cantly more likely to be referred to secondary care. Of 1015 eligible children, 268 (28.2%) agreed to be randomised, while 461 (45.4%) agreed to the parallel, non-randomised preference study, with a strong preference for tonsillectomy. Participants reporting that progress at school had been impeded or with more experience of persistent sore throat were more likely to seek tonsillectomy. Referred boys were more likely than girls to opt for medical treatment. Socio-economic data showed no effect. Conclusion: Preference for tonsillectomy refl ects educational impact and recent experience, rather than age or socio-economic status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-208
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

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