The use of perioperative antibiotics in tonsillectomy: Does it decrease morbidity?

Srikant Iyer, William DeFoor, Joseph Grocela, Karen Kamholz, Anna Varughese, Margaret Kenna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the efficacy of perioperative antibiotics in decreasing post-operative morbidity among patients undergoing tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy. Design: Meta-analysis based on a structured search of the literature, using MEDLINE and the Cochrane database. Subjects: Only articles, which included both treatment and control groups, were included in the final analysis. Studies were limited to ones that involved human subjects, including both children and adults. Studies using steroids and topical antibiotics were excluded. Outcomes: Articles were abstracted for patient factors, elements of study design, methods of patient assignment to treatment and control groups, and clinical outcomes. The primary outcome, time required for return to normal oral intake, was analyzed in the final meta-analysis. Methods: Four hundred and twenty-eight articles were initially identified. There were 23 potentially appropriate articles. Of these, 18 were able to be located in full text form and in English. Seven of these studies directly studied the efficacy of perioperative antibiotics (versus no antibiotics) in decreasing post-operative morbidity. Four studies had sufficient information to calculate effects estimates (xi) and standard deviations (Si) for the primary outcome. Three studies either did not report the outcome of interest or did not report a measure of stability (e.g. p-value or confidence interval). The data available from the first four studies were combined in a quantitative meta-analysis. Statistical analyses were performed using STATA for Windows software. Results: The pooled estimate indicated that the antibiotic group returned to normal oral intake, on average, 1 day sooner than the controls. This difference was found to be statistically significant with a 95% confidence interval of 0.5-1.6 days. An additional assessment of three qualitative reports also suggested the use of perioperative antibiotics for adenotonsillectomy was associated with less post-operative pain. However, studies varied in terms of study quality, sample size, outcome examined, measure used and antibiotic administered. Definitive conclusions regarding the effect of perioperative antibiotics on other outcomes including bleeding, halitosis, fever, activity level and nausea and vomiting could not be drawn due to the small numbers of studies. Conclusions: In this meta-analysis, the use of perioperative antibiotics in patients who have had tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy appears to be associated with a 1-day reduction in the time required for return to normal oral intake. For other potentially important outcomes, such as post operative pain or bleeding, sufficient data were not available to make any definitive conclusions regarding the effect of perioperative antibiotics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-861
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenotonsillectomy
  • Antibiotics
  • Complications of adenotonsillectomy
  • Complications of tonsillectomy
  • Perioperative antibiotics
  • Tonsillectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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