I had my adenoids removed when I was very young – I can’t even remember the before and after. What I can remember were the very regular sore throats, the loss of my voice and blocked noses whenever I got sick – which happened more often than I cared for – up until the age of 30.
So it was with interest that I read the recently published research on the long-term implications of adenoidectomy (surgery to remove the adenoids) which is often coupled with the removal of tonsils (adenotonsillectomy).
Adenoids and tonsils are small glands that sit at the back of the throat. They can swell when inflamed and cause obstruction which is very uncomfortable. They do produce immune cells that protect the entire respiratory system.
This research was conducted in Denmark looking at the long-term health risks from the removal of adenoids and tonsils in 1.2 million children. That’s a huge number which makes for very robust results! What the results showed was that these very common surgeries of removing the adenoids and tonsils were associated with a 2- to 3-fold increase in diseases of the upper respiratory tract.
The reasons these surgeries are so commonplace are that:
- adenoids and tonsils are believed to be “not essential and their removal will not cause harm”
- surgeries are fairly safe with minimal complications
- surgeries have been shown to be an effective treatment for the treatment of sleep-disordered breathing (snoring, sleep apnoea) in children
- there had been no research showing any negative effects of this treatment to date.
This newly published research highlights that the underlying assumption of adenoids and tonsils being non-essential is flawed. They are not only an important part of the immune system but their removal can cause more harm than good. The long-term risks of sleep disordered breathing, for example, was found to be lower than risk of developing respiratory, infectious, and allergic diseases!
From our work with countless children over the years, breathing educators and coaches are aware that the health of the adenoids and tonsils strongly relates to how we breathe. In fact, a healthy breather is highly unlikely to develop enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Conversely, adenoids will shrink and impending surgeries can be avoided with breathing retraining!
Since retraining my breathing I have neither had a sore throat or a blocked nose, and I feel very lucky indeed!