Children's Hospital Colorado

Addie: An Alternative to Traditional Tonsillectomy

Addie in a red dress and smiling

When 4-year-old Addie’s breathing became increasingly worse, her mother, Jordan, learned she needed a tonsillectomy. Addie had developed moderate sleep apnea due to her tonsils and she was constantly waking up throughout the night. While doctors in her hometown of Austin, Texas, said the surgery was not urgent, Jordan decided to seek a second opinion.

She had worked as a nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado years earlier and decided to reconnect with our highly recommended Pediatric Otolaryngology, or the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) team. She soon spoke with Kenny Chan, MD, Chairman for the Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology. Dr. Chan told Jordan that he thought they could not only do the surgery she needed but offer an alternative type of tonsillectomy that allowed for reduced pain and a faster recovery time.

Worth the drive

Jordan and Addie made the 900+ mile trip from Texas to the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado to get the procedure that Addie needed. Rather than a traditional tonsillectomy, Addie received what is called an intracapsular tonsillectomy. This type of tonsillectomy only removes 90% of the tonsils and helps to reduce pain, shorten healing time, and evidence suggests that it reduces bleeding after surgery as well.

Despite its most notable benefit of reduced pain after surgery, intracapsular tonsillectomy is not necessarily the technique of choice for all situations. For example, children with recurrent strep throat would be better served with a traditional total tonsillectomy. However, it was the perfect solution for Addie’s condition and the reduced pain made it easier on Jordan and Addie, who had driven such a long distance for treatment.

Instant improvements

Jordan said she knew that the sooner they could get the surgery, the sooner Addie would start to improve. “Addie is doing amazing,” she said. “She is sleeping through the night, not snoring anymore and happier throughout the day.”

The big difference

Jordan said that her meeting with Dr. Chan helped her decide that Children’s Colorado was the right place for Addie to have her tonsillectomy. “Dr. Chan made the difference for me,” Jordan said. “He guided me through the entire procedure, which made me feel comfortable.” As a parent, Jordan feels she has to be an advocate for her daughter and oversee everything. She had communicated with many doctors and felt that speaking with Dr. Chan was refreshing.

“He needed to know the entire picture to understand what needed to be done,” Jordan said. “He looked at the MRI and the sleep study. He wanted to know all the information and he was very personable, which was very reassuring to me.” While Dr. Chan performed this surgery, he said that Melissa Scholes, MD, and Sarah Gitomer, MD, both part of the Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology, frequently perform this type of tonsillectomy as well. Hear about another family’s tonsillectomy experience at Children’s Colorado.