Differences in Tonsillectomy Utilization by Race/Ethnicity, Type of Health Insurance, and Rurality

Jennifer N. Cooper, Swapna Koppera, Emily F. Boss, Meredith N. Lind

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Tonsillectomy is one of the most common pediatric surgical procedures. In previous decades, large geographic variation and racial disparities in its use have been reported. We aimed to compare contemporary rates of pediatric tonsillectomy utilization in the United States by child race/ethnicity, type of health insurance, and metropolitan/nonmetropolitan residence. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study using the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Ambulatory Surgery and Services Databases and State Inpatient Databases of 8 US states. We included all children aged <15 years who underwent tonsillectomy in 2013 to 2017. Annual population-level tonsillectomy rates across states and sociodemographic groups overall and by surgical indication were calculated using US Census data. Negative binomial regression models were used to compare rates between groups. Results: In all states evaluated, tonsillectomy utilization was higher in non-Hispanic white children than non-Hispanic black or Hispanic children, higher in publicly insured than privately insured children, and higher in children residing in nonmetropolitan areas as compared to metropolitan areas (all P < .05). Tonsillectomy use was highest among white children from nonmetropolitan areas, both overall and for each indication (all P < .05). Conclusions: Tonsillectomy utilization is higher in US children who are white, publicly insured, and who live in nonmetropolitan areas. Future research should identify multilevel factors, such as those at the patient, family, primary care provider, otolaryngologist, health care delivery system, interpersonal and community levels, that explain these differences in utilization in order to improve the appropriateness and equity of tonsillectomy use in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1036
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project
  • health care disparities
  • tonsillectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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