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Twenty-year observational study of paediatric tonsillitis and tonsillectomy


Introduction Tonsillectomy is now only indicated in the UK when specific criteria are met, as outlined by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) and The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). As a result, fewer numbers of tonsillectomy are being performed. Tonsillectomy is the primary treatment for recurrent tonsillitis; therefore, we hypothesise that acute admissions to hospital with tonsillitis and infective complications will have risen since criteria were introduced. Our aim was to assess the rates of acute hospital admissions with tonsillitis in children and the factors associated with this.

Methods Data were provided by Information Service Division for all under 16s in Scotland between 1996/1997 and 2016/2017. Socioeconomic background was determined from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) score. Poisson regression analysis was used to model predictors of surgery and correlation analysis to study the relationship between tonsillitis and other factors.

Results 60 456 tonsillectomies were performed. The number of tonsillectomies dropped significantly following the introduction of SIGN guidelines, and the rates of tonsillitis increased; however, admissions with tonsillitis were already on an upward trajectory. Children from the most deprived areas were 72.0% (95% CI 60% to 85%, p<0.001) more likely to receive tonsillectomy and were also more likely to be admitted with tonsillitis than the least deprived areas.

Conclusion Tonsillectomy and tonsillitis rates are highest in the most deprived; postulated reasons include antibiotic stewardship and difficulty accessing primary care. Current guidelines on tonsillectomy may be disproportionately harmful in children from deprived households.

  • healthcare disparities
  • statistics
  • epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Scottish government data are used in this study, and the appropriate requests will need to be made from the holder before it can be shared with a third party.

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