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Hum Pathol. 2003 Oct;34(10):1053-7.

The adequacy of gross pathological examination of routine tonsils and adenoids in patients 21 years old and younger.

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  • 1Department of Patholgoy, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville 32610, USA.


Most hospitals microscopically examine all routine tonsil and adenoid specimens from healthy pediatric patients with recurrent infections or obstructive sleep apnea. Concern over missing the rare unsuspected, significant diagnosis propagates this practice. Careful gross examination for asymmetry and clinical findings should obviate the need for routine microscopic examination of tonsil and adenoid specimens in patients age 21 years and younger. A retrospective study was conducted using the SNOMED database of 4070 patients age 21 years or younger who underwent tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy between 1970 and July 2001 at the University of Florida. The age distribution of the study group was 0 to 5 years (52%), 6 to 12 years (37%), and 13 to 21 years (11%). Specimens consisted of tonsils only (15%), tonsils and adenoids (40%), and adenoids only (45%). Clinically significant diagnoses were diagnoses that impacted the care of patients and included malignancies and some infections. Non-clinically significant diagnoses included normal, acute or chronic tonsillitis, and tonsillar hyperplasia. Clinically significant pathological processes were seen in the tonsil or adenoid specimens of 3 of the 4070 patients. These 3 cases included a 2-year-old male with Burkitt's lymphoma, a 19-year-old male with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (small noncleaved cell, non-Burkitt's type), and an 11-year-old male with a probable viral process but in whom a lymphoma could not be absolutely excluded. All 3 of these patients had signs and symptoms, including significant cervical lymphadenopathy, meriting microscopic analysis of the specimens. In conclusion, microscopic examination of all routine tonsils and adenoids for individuals 21 years or younger is not indicated. Gross examination is still recommended. Clinical suspicion and specimen asymmetry should be used to determine when thorough histological examination is merited.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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