Assessment of Parental Choice Predisposition for Tonsillectomy in Children

Grace R. Leu, Anne R. Links, Marisa A. Ryan, Jonathan M. Walsh, David E. Tunkel, Mary Catherine Beach, Emily F. Boss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Importance: The decision to proceed with tonsillectomy to treat pediatric obstructive sleep-disordered breathing (OSDB) often falls on individual families. Despite emphasis on shared decision-making between parents and surgeons about tonsillectomy for OSDB, the extent to which parents have already decided about surgery prior to the child's consultation is not known. Objective: To identify predictors of parent choice predisposition for surgical treatment of OSDB with tonsillectomy and describe its association with parent-clinician communication. Design, Setting, and Participants: Observational cohort study conducted at 3 outpatient clinical sites (urban-based outpatient center, suburban off-site outpatient center, and community-based medical center) associated with a large academic center. A total of 149 parents of children undergoing their initial otolaryngology consultation for OSDB were identified through clinic scheduling records and deemed eligible for participation in this study. Of the 149 parents, a volunteer sample of 64 parents (42.9%) agreed to participate and have their consultation audiorecorded. Of these 64 participants, 12 parents were excluded because their child had previously been evaluated for OSDB by a specialist. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcomes and measures were treatment choice predisposition scale (a measure of the strength of a patient's treatment decision prior to entering a medical consultation), parent communication behaviors coded in consultation audiorecordings (substantive questions asked, introduced medical jargon, expression of treatment preference, and scores on the OSDB and Adenotonsillectomy Knowledge Scale for parents). Results: A total of 52 parent participants were included in the final analysis. Most parent participants were female (n = 48; 92%); 50% (n = 26) of parents were non-Hispanic White, 37% (n = 19) were Black, 10% (n = 5) were Hispanic/Latino, and 4% (n = 2) self-reported race/ethnicity as "Other."Mean (range) choice predisposition was 6.84 (2-10), with 22 parents (42%) more predisposed to choose tonsillectomy. Parents more predisposed to choose tonsillectomy used more medical jargon during the consultation (odds ratio [OR], 3.95; 95% CI, 1.16-15.15) and were less likely to ask questions (OR, 0.22; 95% CI, 0.05-0.87). Parental predictors of greater predisposition toward choosing surgery were White race (OR, 7.31; 95% CI, 1.77-39.33) and prior evaluation by a pediatrician for OSDB (OR, 6.10; 95% CI, 1.44-33.34). Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study of parents of children with OSDB, many parents were predisposed to choose treatment with tonsillectomy prior to initial surgical consultation, which may lessen engagement and influence 2-way communication. In this cohort, greater predisposition for tonsillectomy was observed in non-Hispanic White parents and parents of patients who had been previously evaluated by a pediatrician for OSDB. Understanding parent choice predisposition for surgery may promote improved communication and parental engagement during surgical consultations. It may also help direct education about sleep and tonsillectomy to nonsurgical forums.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-270
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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