The effectiveness of tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy (“tonsillectomy”) for recurrent throat infection compared with watchful waiting is uncertain.


To compare sleep, cognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes of tonsillectomy versus watchful waiting in children with recurrent throat infections.


MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Library.


Two investigators independently screened studies against predetermined criteria.


One investigator extracted data with review by a second. Investigators independently assessed risk of bias and strength of evidence (SOE) and confidence in the estimate of effects.


Seven studies including children with ≥3 infections in the previous 1 to 3 years addressed this question. In studies reporting baseline data, number of infections/sore throats decreased from baseline in both groups, with greater decreases in sore throat days, clinician contacts, diagnosed group A streptococcal infections, and school absences in tonsillectomized children in the short term (<12 months). Quality of life was not markedly different between groups at any time point.


Few studies fully categorized infection/sore throat severity; attrition was high.


Throat infections, utilization, and school absences improved in the first postsurgical year in tonsillectomized children versus children not receiving surgery. Benefits did not persist over time; longer-term outcomes are limited. SOE is moderate for reduction in short-term throat infections and insufficient for longer-term reduction. SOE is low for no difference in longer-term streptococcal infection reduction. SOE is low for utilization and missed school reduction in the short term, low for no difference in longer-term missed school, and low for no differences in quality of life.

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