OBJECTIVE:

To investigate the association of the 2011 American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery guidelines with perioperative care processes and outcomes in children undergoing tonsillectomy.

METHODS:

We conducted a retrospective cohort study of otherwise healthy children undergoing tonsillectomy between January 2009 and January 2013 at 29 US children’s hospitals participating in the Pediatric Health Information System. We measured evidence-based processes suggested by the guidelines (perioperative dexamethasone and no antibiotic use) and outcomes (30-day tonsillectomy complication-related revisits). We analyzed rates aggregated over the preguideline and postguideline periods and then by month over time by using interrupted time series.

RESULTS:

Of 111 813 children who underwent tonsillectomy, 54 043 and 57 770 did so in the preguideline and postguideline periods, respectively. Dexamethasone use increased from 74.6% to 77.4% (P < .001) in the preguideline to postguideline period, as did its rate of change in use (percentage change per month, −0.02% to 0.29%; P < .001). Antibiotic use decreased from 34.7% to 21.8% (P < .001), as did its rate of change in use (percentage change per month, −0.17% to −0.56%; P < .001). Revisits for bleeding remained stable; however, total revisits to the hospital for tonsillectomy complications increased from 8.2% to 9.0% (P < .001) because of an increase in revisits for pain. Hospital-level results were similar.

CONCLUSIONS:

The guidelines were associated with some improvement in evidence-based perioperative care processes but no improvement in outcomes. Dexamethasone use increased slightly, and antibiotic use decreased substantially. Revisits for tonsillectomy-related complications increased modestly over time because of revisits for pain.

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