April 10, 2015

Weight Loss After Tonsillectomy in Adults

An adult undergoing tonsillectomy experiences some of the worst pain they could potentially encounter in their lifetime. Not only that, it may last up to 3 weeks. With such pain, it is not surprising that dehydration is one of the most common risks of this surgery. Along with such pain, weight loss is a not unexpected occurrence given oral intake substantially decreases for such a long time.

Typically, I've told patients around a 10 pound weight loss is not unusual, but that's just based on patient feedback over the years.

But now, there's a study that looked into this question and a more precise answer can now be provided. Keep in mind that the study population was taken from the military (Naval Medical Center Portsmouth) which may skew the results. (I would think that the military contains personnel that are in better overall physical health than the average non-military population.)

SO... how much weight loss on average occurs in an adult after tonsillectomy?

In a study group of 138 adults (age 18-40 years), the average weight loss was 4.77 pounds. They also found that older patients typically suffered greater weight loss after surgery.

• 5.72 pounds in 40+ years
• 4.95 pounds in 31-40 year-olds
• 5.44 pounds in 20-30 year-olds

Furthermore, it took an average of ~5 months for patients to regain the weight that they lost.

More info on tonsillectomy pain levels over time can be found here.

Watch a video showing how a tonsillectomy is performed here!

Posttonsillectomy Weight Loss in Adults. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Apr 6. pii: 0194599815578110. [Epub ahead of print]

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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