UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital Offers Advanced Tonsillectomy Breakthrough
Three-year-old Isabel Sandford had trouble sleeping at night. Her enlarged tonsils blocked her airway, causing her to snore and making it difficult to breathe. Her doctor recommended a tonsillectomy to remove the enlarged tonsils.
However, instead of undergoing the traditional procedure, Isabel had her tonsils removed with a newer technique called Coblation tonsillectomy, offered at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital.
Derived from the words "controlled ablation," Coblation uses radio frequency energy to remove tissue through a significantly cooler process than traditional electrosurgery or lasers.
"The Coblation tonsillectomy is a gentle alternative that eliminates most of the pain and recovery time associated with tonsillectomies of the past," said Dr. Nina Shapiro, assistant professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "This technique gently breaks down tissue surrounding the tonsil instead of burning or cutting it out, which means less damage to the surrounding tissue and virtually no bleeding."
Using the Coblation wand device, the surgeon places the tip against the base of the tonsil to remove precisely the tissue attaching the tonsil to the throat. The surgeon then uses a foot pedal to control and activate the low-temperature, radio-frequency energy and saline conductive solution from the wand tip to the area around the tonsil. This action creates a plasma field that gently breaks down the targeted tissue. The wand also contains a coagulation feature that allows the surgeon to stop any bleeding quickly.
The Coblation tonsillectomy takes less than 15 minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis in an operating room under general anesthesia.
"With the traditional tonsillectomy, patients suffered sore throats, needed more pain medication and took a week or two to recuperate," Shapiro said. "Now, I'm finding that with this technique, patients can drink and eat a few hours after surgery, require less pain medication, and return to normal activity within a few days."
Tonsils are oval-shaped masses of lymphatic tissue located at the back of the throat that aid the body in fighting infections. Approximately 500,000 tonsillectomies are performed on children each year, making it the second-most common childhood surgery performed in the United States.
Although tonsils may need to be removed because of repeated infections, they are more likely to be taken out because they've grown too large for the child's airway.
"When children sleep, the muscles of the throat relax, and if the tonsils are enlarged they can press against the throat. This obstruction causes snoring, breathing difficulties and even sleep apnea," Shapiro said. "Ultimately, sleeping problems lead to either daytime fatigue or hyperactivity, as well as other behavioral problems, because the child is sleep-deprived."
The Federal Drug Administration approved Coblation for use in tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy procedures in July 2001. Since the first Coblation tonsillectomy was performed in January 2000, physicians have performed more than 50,000 procedures worldwide.
Isabel was home eating ice cream less than a few hours after her procedure and her parents said they were very pleased with the results.
"Isabel's healing process went so smoothly. She had very little pain and was back to her normal self very quickly," reported her mother, Raquel Sandford. "And, the original symptoms are gone — no more runny nose or snoring — she's quiet as a mouse when she sleeps!"
For more information on Coblation tonsillectomy at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital, please call (800) UCLA-MD1 or (800) 825-2631.
Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA offers a full spectrum of primary and specialized medical care for infants, children and adolescents. Its mission is to provide state-of-the-art treatment for children in a compassionate atmosphere, as well as to conduct research that improves the understanding and treatment of pediatric diseases. For more information, please visit www.uclahealth.org/mattel.