Objective: Our aim was to determine the morbidity of patients awaiting tonsillectomy.
Design: The study comprised a questionnaire survey of 379 children and 278 adults waiting over 12 months for tonsillectomy.
Outcome measures: These comprised frequency of infection, sickness absence and continuing desire for surgery.
Results: Response rates were 70 per cent (children) and 60 per cent (adults). Morbidity was similar in adults and children, and in those waiting more or less than two years. In the six months prior to the study, 86 per cent of children and 83 per cent of adults had had tonsillitis. Sixty per cent of children and 50 per cent of adults had had three or more episodes. Sixty-two per cent of children and 59 per cent of adults had had at least one long episode of tonsillitis, and 29 per cent of children and 24 per cent of adults had had more than three long episodes. Eighty-nine per cent of children had missed school at least once, compared with 71 per cent of adults missing work at least once (p = 0.01). The frequency of infection was significantly associated with patients' desire for surgery (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Patients awaiting tonsillectomy experience considerable morbidity. This study does not support the hypothesis that untreated patients will ‘outgrow’ their condition.