November 17, 2012

Taste Changes after Tonsillectomy

Very rarely, patients will complain of taste changes after tonsillectomy. Such taste changes (aka dysgeusia) is most often described as metallic though other taste variations or absences may be reported.

Depending on what study you look at, this complaint occurs anywhere from 0.3% to as high as 9% of tonsillectomy cases. Dysgeusia after tonsillectomy is felt to be due to a number of different causes including:

1) medication side effect
2) injury to the lingual branch of the glossopharyngeal nerve
3) zinc deficiency

Regardless of the etiology, most cases of post-tonsillectomy dysgeusia spontaneously resolves within a few months without any specific intervention.

However, there are a few things a patient can try that might help accelerate normal taste recovery including:

1) Stopping all unnecessary medications
2) Zinc gluconate 50mg 3 times per day
3) Alpha Lipoic Acid 200mg 3 times per day
4) Rinsing mouth with watered down milk-of-magnesia
5) Chewing non-mint flavored gum

I did want to point out that there are no comprehensive studies to support any of these interventions. But, it certainly can't hurt to try it.

Watch a video showing how a tonsillectomy is performed here!

Taste disturbance after tonsillectomy. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 2002;(546):164-72.

Taste disorders after tonsillectomy: case report and literature review. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2005 Mar;114(3):233-6.

Posttonsillectomy taste distortion: a significant complication. Laryngoscope. 2004 Jul;114(7):1206-13.

Taste disturbance after tonsillectomy and laryngomicrosurgery. Auris Nasus Larynx. 2005 Dec;32(4):381-6. Epub 2005 Jul 19.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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