“Children admitted to hospital with throat infections have increased by 76% over the past 10 years,” reports BBC News.
The headline is prompted by research that was looking at the association between whether a change in hospital admissions for throat infections and the decline in the amount of tonsillectomies (surgery to remove the tonsils). In previous decades, tonsillectomies were one of the most commonly performed types of surgery in children with a history of tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils, usually due to infection).
But medical opinion shifted, as evidence showed that in many cases the potential benefits of tonsillectomies were outweighed by the risks of complications, some of which – while uncommon – can be serious (such as post-operative infection and excessive bleeding).
The current study aimed to look at whether this reduction had been followed by an increase in the severity of tonsillitis and its complications, such as abscesses (pus-filled swellings) around the tonsils.
It looked at national hospital data for England between 1999 and 2010 to identify admissions for acute throat infections and abscesses around the tonsils. Although the rate of admissions for acute throat infections did increase in this period, the length of stay decreased, with half of children admitted and discharged on the same day.
The rate of admission for abscesses around the tonsils did not increase in this time, which suggested that the rate of complications of tonsillitis have not increased.
The researchers conclude that the reduction in tonsillectomies does not appear to be linked to increased severity of acute throat infections or rates of admission for tonsil abscesses.
Instead, they suggest that the rise in admissions for acute throat infections may have been because of changes in the health service, such as the increasing use of admissions to short stay observation wards and changes in the way data was recorded.