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Cervical complications following routine tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.



Fortunately, patients undergoing adenotonsillectomies have far more complaints than complications. Sore throats, dysphagia, and neck pain are frequent and expected symptoms after surgery. Differentiating these symptoms from early signs of severe cervical complications can be difficult. Such complications are rare but include atlanto-axial subluxation (Grisel's syndrome), cervical necrotizing fasciitis, cervical emphysema and cervical oseteomyelitis. Due to the frequency with which adenotonsillectomies are performed, most otolaryngologists will encounter these events during their career. This article is thereby intended to elucidate the early warnings, appropriate diagnostic workup, and therapeutic modalities for cervical complications following adenotonsillectomies.


Early recognition and intervention can prevent devastating morbidity and mortality described with cervical complications. Computed tomography scanning remains the gold standard for diagnosing cervical complications after adenotonsillectomy. Although a range of severity exists in cervical complications, most cases can be managed conservatively with broad spectrum antibiotics, observation, bedrest and immobilization in cases of Grisel's syndrome. Cervical necrotizing fasciitis requires a high index of suspicion and urgent management to avoid fatal consequences.


This is a review of the most frequently encountered, although rare, cervical complications following adenotonsillectomies. It gives the reader an insight into the efficient diagnosis and management of these complications.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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