The aim of this study was to quantify the effect of tonsillectomy on the incidence of sore throats and its co-morbidity in adult patients. One hundred and nineteen adult patients were sent a standard questionnaire regarding their symptoms in the 12 months preceding and following their tonsillectomy. Outcome measures included the incidence of sore throats, total number of days with sore throat, amount of time taken off work or school, and number of visits to the general practitioner (GP). In addition, patients were asked to indicate the duration of their symptoms and whether or not they found the tonsillectomy effective in curing their sore throats.
Sixty-six patients (55.5 per cent) returned completed questionnaires. The age of the patients ranged from 16 to 39 years. The mean duration of symptoms was 8.3 years. On average, patients had 8.1 different sore throat episodes, 42 sore throat days, 21.4 days of sore throat related absence from work or school, and 5.9 visits to the GP in the 12 months before their operation. For the 12 months after surgery, these reduced to 0.9 episodes, four days, 2.2 days and 0.6 visits, respectively. This reduction was very significant (p < 0.001, Wilcoxon signed rank test).
After their surgery, more than half the patients achieved complete resolution of all the measured parameters mentioned above. Most of the remaining patients achieved at least 50 per cent resolution. Only three patients (4.8 per cent) achieved less than 50 per cent resolution. Ninety-five per cent of the patients found the operation effective in curing their sore throats and were glad they had had surgery.
In conclusion, retrospective questionnaire data must be interpreted with some caution, but this study suggests that tonsillectomy is effective in reducing the incidence, duration and co-morbidity of recurrent sore throats in adults; this must be balanced against the post-operative problems in a minority of patients.