Objective To determine the effectiveness of tonsillectomy for the treatment of dysphagia related to tonsillar hypertrophy.
Design Prospective cohort study.
Setting Tertiary care pediatric otolaryngology practice.
Participants Eighty-five children aged 2 to 14 years referred for tonsillectomy owing to dysphagia related to tonsillar hypertrophy (dysphagia cohort) or for other indications (control cohort).
Interventions Swallowing Quality of Life (SWAL-QOL) dysphagia questionnaires were administered at the initial clinic visit, on the day of surgery, and at 1 month and 6 months after surgery. Patients were weighed on the day of surgery and at 1 month after surgery.
Main Outcome Measures The primary outcome measure was the SWAL-QOL score. Secondary outcome measures were the type of diet consistency patients tolerated at home and the weight percentile for age.
Results Of 85 patients enrolled, 57 went on to have surgery, completed at least 1 postoperative questionnaire, and were included in the data analysis. At 1 month after tonsillectomy, the dysphagia cohort (n = 18) demonstrated improved SWAL-QOL scores (mean [SD], 58.4 [4.8] before surgery vs 82.4 [5.3] after surgery; P < .001), more patients tolerating a regular diet (12 of 37 patients [33.3%] before surgery vs 22 of 36 [60.0%] after surgery, P = .01), and increased weight percentile for age (mean [SD], 36.5 [10.7] before surgery vs 50.0 [10.6] after surgery; P = .01). Similarly, at 1 month after tonsillectomy, the control cohort (n = 39) demonstrated improved SWAL-QOL scores (mean [SD], 80.8 [2.6] before surgery vs 91.7 [1.8] after surgery; P < .001), more patients tolerating a regular diet (30 of 37 patients [81.1%] before surgery vs 34 of 36 patients [94.4%] after surgery, P = .04), and increased weight percentile for age (mean [SD], 62.8 [5.4] before surgery vs 70.4 [5.1] after surgery; P = .003).
Conclusions Dysphagia related to tonsillar hypertrophy is a significant problem not only among children with dysphagia with a primary complaint but also among a large subset of patients referred for tonsillectomy for other indications. Following tonsillectomy, both groups experience significant improvement in swallowing-related quality of life, ability to tolerate a regular diet, and weight percentile for age. Tonsillectomy is an effective treatment for the management of dysphagia related to tonsillar hypertrophy in children.