Doctors performing less invasive surgery to remove tonsils

Partial tonsillectomy: helping kids recover faster

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Tonsils: we're all born with them, and they serve as the body's first line of defense against infection. But tonsils can sometimes be problematic.

When they become enlarged and interfere with breathing and sleeping, surgery is often recommended. 

Now, there is a less-invasive approach to tonsillectomy that is helping kids recover faster.

When 3-year-old Jovon Province needed to have his tonsils removed, his parents were worried. His older siblings suffered miserably after their procedure.

"They were in pain," said Jovon's mother, Florette. "They couldn't eat for a week. They wouldn't even drink."

The traditional tonsillectomy involves removal of the entire tonsil capsule and full recovery can take a week or two.

"In the first few days, kids -- especially less than 3 years old -- may have to be readmitted for IV fluids because the pain is so bad," said Dr. Sam Ostrower with Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. 

Jovan was a candidate for a less-invasive procedure, a partial tonsillectomy.

"I use an instrument that uses heat energy, basically a plasma field to melt away the tonsil tissue until I'm just at the capsule of the tonsil," said Ostrower. "The advantage of doing that operation is that it hurts much less."

That means less post-operative pain, less bleeding and a greatly reduced risk of being readmitted to the hospital.

"The first day he was on the computer playing," said Jovan's mother. "He ate, he drank. It was amazing."

The partial tonsillectomy can only be performed on kids who are having breathing and snoring problems that can in turn cause sleep apnea. Children who have inflamed tonsils from recurring or chronic infections need the traditional approach to ensure that all the infected tissue is removed. 

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.