Adenoidectomy: Removing a child’s adenoids may not ease chronic cold or flu symptoms

THE QUESTION One approach to dealing with repeated upper respiratory tract infections in young children is to have the adenoids removed. Does doing so make a difference?

THIS STUDY involved 111 children, 1 to 6 years old (3 years old on average), who had been slated to have an adenoidectomy because of recurrent upper respiratory tract infections. They were randomly assigned to have the surgery right away or to be closely monitored but not given surgery unless their condition changed, a treatment called “watchful waiting.” In the next two years, the children had an average of eight upper respiratory tract infections, whether they had had their adenoids removed or had not. Virtually no differences were found in the number of days missed at day care or school or in the number of mild vs. severe infections. Children who had had an adenoidectomy had a few more days with a fever than did the others.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Young children who have frequent or chronic upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds, flu or sinusitis, which is one of the most common reasons that a young child sees a doctor. The adenoids — a mass of tissue in the area connecting the nose and throat — fight infection by trapping germs that enter through the nose; swelling sometimes results. Adenoids can be removed separately or with the tonsils, which fight germs that enter through the mouth.

CAVEATS Some data came from information recorded by the children’s parents.

FIND THIS STUDY Sept. 6 online issue of BMJ at

LEARN MORE ABOUT adenoids at (click on “medical encyclopedia”) 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.