3-year-old undergoes tonsillectomy without any problems

Thousands of kids undergo "routine" procedure every year

Tonsillectomy Checkup

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A procedure performed on thousands of kids across the nation has put many parents on edge. 

More than 500,000 tonsillectomies are performed on kids in the United States every year, but a recent death has put many parents on edge.

Earlier this year, a 13-year-old girl in California was declared brain dead after undergoing a tonsillectomy. Surgery to remove tonsils is considered a routine procedure, but now many are starting to wonder just how routine it really is. 

It is actually the second most common pediatric surgery, which is why one mother wasn't worried about the surgery at all.

Kari Burke's 3-year-old son, Drew, has been sick on and off for a while and has had a hard time breathing at night.

"To hear him gasp for his air at night, it was just scary," said Burke. "A lot of nights he slept next to us. We didn't sleep because we were listening to him and wondering if he would still be breathing the next morning."

About two weeks ago, Drew had his tonsils and adenoids removed, but Kari wasn't nervous for him.

"They give you a surgical procedure book and a couple different fliers of what to expect, what to do before hand and what to do after," said Burke.

"We tell adults and children to expect two weeks of healing after surgery," said Mindy Boberg, a clinical nurse specialist with Mayo Clinic Health System.

However, Boberg said there are some things to watch out for after surgery.

"The No. 1 concern with a tonsillectomy post operatively is hemorrhage and bleeding," said Boberg.

That is why Drew was placed on a soft food diet for about a week without any activity. Drew recently went in for his post-operation checkup and passed with flying colors. Boberg said Drew's recovery was a textbook case.

"It is one of the most common procedures that we do and it is done on a daily basis here," said Boberg. "As long as people are educated beforehand and then we do these post-operation visits as well after to make sure they have healed properly, it's a very low-risk surgery."

Now Drew can go back to attending preschool, playing outside and sleeping a little easier too.

"We are all going to sleep better," said Burke.

Although a surgery may be deemed as routine, it is important to note that there are risks with any type of surgery. Make sure you know what to watch out for and contact your doctor if you have any concerns. The procedure for a tonsillectomy varies depending on the hospital. The Mayo Clinic Health System no longer uses narcotic pain medicine, like codeine, in children under 12 years of age, because it creates a higher chance of causing slow or shallow breathing.

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