Tonsillectomy is one of the most common surgeries in the United States, with more than 11,400 procedures performed on children and adults in hospital settings in 2009, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and an increasing number being performed in outpatient clinics as well.
Explore this issue:December 2012
For most of the thousands of children and adults who undergo tonsillectomy each year, post-operative pain, bleeding, swelling and discomfort last a few days, or a few weeks at most. But, for a slim minority of patients, the complication of post-tonsillectomy taste disorder can linger much longer. New research findings about the prevalence and duration of post-tonsillectomy taste disorder may point to a need to rethink pre- and post-operative practices for both pediatric and adult patients.
Taste Disorders Rare, but Present
In the initial study, published in 2010, researchers followed over the course of four years 223 adult patients who used a self-assessing questionnaire to report taste disorders after their tonsillectomy surgeries (Laryngoscope. 2010;120(10):2119-2124). “We wanted to look at qualitative taste disorders: the sensation of having a bitter, salty, sweet or metallic taste in your mouth,” said lead author Clemens Heiser, MD, with the department of otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Technical University in Munich, Germany. “And, we wanted to figure out how long the sensation lasted.” (see “Patient Taste Questionnaire,” below).