Children seem to gain extra weight after having their tonsils removed

Monday, February 28, 2011; 11:55 PM


After having their tonsils removed, kids seem to gain extra weight

THE QUESTION Tonsils often are removed to eliminate infections that cause sore throats and trouble swallowing and to help a child breathe better while sleeping. Might a tonsillectomy also affect the child's weight?

THIS STUDY analyzed data from nine studies, involving 795 children who had a tonsillectomy, with or without adenoid removal, before they turned 18. Their weights ranged from normal to extremely obese. In the first few years after their surgery, most of the children gained weight beyond what was expected as they grew taller. In more than half of the children, weight increased 46 to 100 percent. Most of the others gained as well, but in lesser amounts, although youths who were the most obese at the start neither gained nor lost weight after a tonsillectomy.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Children with inflamed tonsils, and parents who must decide whether to have the tonsils removed. Although tonsillectomies are not done as often as they were a few decades ago, about a half-million children still have the operation each year in the United States.

CAVEATS The study suggested a link between tonsillectomy and subsequent weight gain, but it was not designed to prove cause and effect. It also did not determine the exact mechanism that may cause weight gain after a tonsillectomy. Citing the increasing number of obese children, the authors urged parents to add potential weight gain to the list of factors they consider when deciding whether to have a child's tonsils removed.

FIND THIS STUDY February issue of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (

LEARN MORE ABOUT tonsils at (click on "throat") and

- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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