New tonsillectomy procedure less painful, requires less recovery time

400 thousand people have their tonsils removed every year. Many are kids who have tonsil infections that just won't go away, making it hard for them to swallow and sleep.

Standard tonsillectomies can leave kids down and out for weeks, but a new procedure cuts days out of that healing process.

Mason keeps his mom on the run -- but it wasn't always that way.

Mason was diagnosed with failure to thrive. Kids with the disorder can't take in enough calories needed for weight gain and growth. At eight months he had to rely on a feeding tube to eat.

Mason grew healthier, but the feeding tube damaged his tonsils.

Doctor Mitchell Austin decided to take them out using a new device that cuts with ions.

"The ions create heat at a very localized, fixed point," said Dr. Mitchell Austin, pediatric otolaryngologist at Nemours Children's Clinic in Orlando.

The tool generates four times less heat than traditional cutting devices, leaving a smaller scar on the throat.

"Lesser depth of burn versus a deeper burn," said Dr. Austin.

Just a few millimeters less damage can cut recovery time in half.

"They're eating in a week instead of two weeks," said Dr. Austin. "They're taking probably five or seven days less of stronger narcotic pain medications, and their moms feel better that their child is in less pain requiring less pain medicine."

Mason was eating 24 hours after the operation.

"You would not look at him and know he had surgery the day before," said Carla McRae, Mason's mother.

And just two weeks post-op, he's back to being a typical two-year-old. Hopefully a sign his troubles are behind him.

The most common and traditional method of removing tonsils uses a scalpel. That can't be performed while electrically charged implants like defibrillators are turned on. The new procedure we just told you about, can.

If you would like to read the research summary for this story, click on the document link above; if you would like to read the Q & A with the doctor click on the link below.

Less painful tonsillectomy: Interview transcript


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