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Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2010 Jan;74(1):37-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2009.10.005. Epub 2009 Nov 12.

The psychological impact of an adenoidectomy and adenotonsillectomy on young children.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University Health System, National University of Singapore, 5 Lower Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119074, Singapore.



Children react differently to surgeries. The purpose of this study is to examine the stress response in young children after an adenoidectomy and adenotonsillectomy, and whether child characteristics of behavioural and neurophysiological nature can predict this stress response.


In this prospective cohort study 43 children, aged 2-7 years, scheduled for adenoidectomy or adenoitonsillectomy (response rate 43%) were recruited from the Ear, Nose and Throat Department of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Parents completed questionnaires about temperament 4 weeks before surgery, about behaviour and sleeping problems 4 weeks before and 6 weeks after surgery, and about posttraumatic stress symptoms 6 weeks after surgery. Neurophysiological measurements (cortisol and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia) were performed 4 weeks before, directly after and 6 weeks after surgery. Results were compared with a control group of healthy children. The data was analysed with paired t-tests and one-way repeated ANOVA.


Most children with an indication for an adenoidectomy and adenotonsillectomy had more behavioural and emotional problems before surgery then the control group. After surgery there was an improvement in behaviour and sleep, in respectively 75% and 68% of the children, especially in boys. Posttraumatic stress symptoms were rare. Emotional temperament was associated with more behavioural problems before surgery (r=0.53, P=0.02), after surgery (r=0.38, P<0.000), lower cortisol directly after surgery (r=-0.49, P=0.05) and lower Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia at follow-up (r=-0.33, P=0.06). Other temperament styles and pre-surgery levels of Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia and cortisol did not show associations with any behavioural or neurophysiological measures.


An adenoidectomy and adenotonsillectomy appear not to be stressful, but rather seems helpful for reducing pre-existing behavioural and emotional problems, possibly associated with the indication for surgery. For those children with an increase of behavioural and sleeping problems after surgery, this can only be partly explained by emotional temperament. There are indications that boys and girls react differently; boys tend to show a better behavioural and emotional improvement after an adenoidectomy and adenotonsillectomy. Other behavioural or neurophysiological child characteristics do not have a predictive value on the outcome.

Copyright (c) 2009 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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