- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2000

For many pediatric tonsillectomy patients, the surgery is their first.

A little preparation beforehand can make the experience less traumatic, says Dr. Scott McNamara, a Northwest otolaryngologist. Telling children exactly what will happen and even giving them a tour of the hospital is an excellent introduction, he says.

"Overall, tonsillectomy is a safe procedure that is effective in solving problems," Dr. McNamara says. "Kids seems to pretty much take it in stride."

A tonsillectomy usually is done under general anesthesia in a hospital, he says. Most patients go home from the hospital the same day. Occasionally, some are kept overnight if they show signs of complications such as bleeding or high fever.

There usually is pain after the surgery, which can be remedied with medication. For younger patients, Tylenol usually is effective. Dr. McNamara says he offers stronger pain medication for older patients.

Tonsils are easier to remove in children than in adults, and the entire operation takes about 20 minutes, Dr. McNamara says.

"If you are 20 or 30 years old and have a lifetime of recurrent infections, the dissection tends to be more stubborn," he says.

Doctors get to the tonsils through the mouth, so there are no stitches. There usually is some discomfort, though, and parents are advised to offer their children cold, soft foods such as ice cream, popsicles, yogurt and pudding.

Dr. McNamara recommends that children take about a week off from school to recover fully from the effects of anesthesia and surgery.

Daniel Richmond, 9, of Burtonsville, planned to take that much time to recover after his recent tonsillectomy at Holy Cross Hospital. Even though Daniel had been through surgery to put tubes in his ears and remove his adenoids, he still needed some preparation for the tonsil procedure.

"Dr. [Kenneth] Hauck gave Daniel a wonderful book," says Daniel's mother, Bernice Richmond. "It is like a comic book that explains a tonsillectomy from beginning to end. The characters are inside the tonsil, similar to what they do on 'The Magic Schoolbus.'"

Another excellent way to prepare for surgery is to take a tour of the hospital. Most local hospitals offer or will arrange a tour for upcoming surgical patients.

For pediatric patients, the tour often includes such hands-on activities as trying on surgical scrubs, visiting an operating room and handling such equip-ment as a blood-pressure cuff or a stethoscope.

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