Getting your tonsils out: It's a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of U.S. kids every year.
Yet a study released Monday shows hospitals vary greatly in just how they handle this common procedure. And kids fare differently depending on which hospital they go to. At the best hospitals, just three percent of kids came back for complications like bleeding. But at others, close to 13 percent did.
It is the latest in a series of studies showing that Americans get vastly different care depending on where they live.
It's not clear why, but the researchers who did the study say it will be worth looking into so that all hospitals can make sure children recover well from the operations. New guidelines issued in 2011 may help get all hospitals and pediatric surgeons on the same page, other experts said.
....Dr. Sanjay Mahant of the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and colleagues across the United States, looked at the records of nearly 140,000 children who got simple, uncomplicated tonsillectomies at 36 children's hospitals between 2004 and 2010. All got same-day operations and were sent home on the day of their procedure.
Over that time, about 8 percent had to go back to the hospital within a month, usually for bleeding.
The researchers also looked at the use of two common drug types — dexamethasone, which can reduce complications such as nausea, and antibiotics.
New guidelines issued in 2011 advise giving dexamethasone to children before the operation, and they recommend against giving any antibiotics.
In the study before the guidelines came out, 76 percent of the children got dexamethasone, and at some hospitals almost none did. And 16 percent of children got antibiotics, although at some hospitals 90 percent of patients did.
"More than 500,000 tonsillectomies are performed each year in children in the United States, most commonly for sleep-disordered breathing and recurrent throat infections," the researchers wrote. There shouldn't be such variation from one hospital to another, they said.
Image: Child recovering in bed, via Shutterstock