Objectives To evaluate the safety, morbidity, and efficacy of radiofrequency tissue volume reduction of tonsils using two different surgical techniques and to compare these two techniques with each other and with classic tonsillectomy.
Study Design A nonrandomized retrospective review of tonsil reductions was made between 2000 and 2002 using in vivo studies associated with tonsil reduction and tonsillectomy performed either in the hospital operating room or in the outpatient treatment area.
Methods We studied 150 patients and divided them into three main groups based on surgical technique. Group A consisted of 50 consecutive patients who underwent tonsil “ablation,” Group B contained another 50 consecutive individuals who received tonsil “coblation,” and Group C consisted of 50 patients who underwent classic tonsillectomy (cold dissection). Each group consisted of two subcategories of children (age range, 1–12 y) and adults (age range, 12–60 y) with chronic tonsillar hypertrophy. Most of the pediatric patients underwent adenoidectomy during the same surgical procedure. Indications for tonsillectomy were those listed by the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. A retrospective chart review was used to assess procedures, safety, morbidity, and efficacy of tonsil reduction and tonsillectomy. Four specific end points of morbidity were investigated: pain, return to normal diet, return to normal activity, and use of pain medication. Efficacy of tonsillectomy was determined by the clinical observation of the remaining tonsillar tissue and compared with pretreatment photographs of the tonsils.
Results There were no complications in any of the groups. Efficacy was assessed based on the mean tonsil reduction and was found to be 100% for tonsillectomy, 86% for the tonsil coblation technique, but only 53.6% for the ablation technique. Morbidity was minimal in groups A and B and significantly greater in Group C. The number of pain days, narcotic-use days, and days before return to normal diet and activity were greatly reduced in groups A and B when compared with classic tonsillectomy (group C). Pain levels on day 1 were less than 3 (on a scale of 1–10) in groups A and B. The number of pain days and narcotic-use days was less than 4 days in groups A and B. Similarly, most patients returned to solid diet and normal activity by day 4. Pain levels, number of narcotic-use days, and number of days to return to normal diet and activity were significantly higher for classic tonsillectomy.
Conclusions Tonsil coblation has distinct advantages when compared with tonsil ablation and standard tonsillectomy. Tonsil coblation resulted in greater than 86% elimination of tonsillar tissue in both children and adults. In most patients, pain levels were minimal and limited to the first 48 hours after surgery. Return to normal diet and activity was much earlier in the coblation group versus classic tonsillectomy.