June 20th, 2024

McMaster pediatric surgery chief says deaths after tonsil surgery ‘very rare’


By Nicole Ireland, The Canadian Press on June 7, 2024.

The chief of pediatric surgery at McMaster Children’s Hospital says the deaths following tonsil and adenoid surgeries at his hospital are “tragic” and “very rare.”

Dr. Devin Peterson spoke Friday in a video posted online – a day after the Hamilton hospital announced two children had died following the procedures and that it was launching an external review.

Peterson says the hospital is “deeply saddened” and offered “sincere condolences” to the patients’ families.

An accompanying statement on the Hamilton Health Sciences’ website says one child died the day after their surgery and the other died nine days after having the procedure.

It says McMaster Children’s Hospital performed 584 pediatric tonsil and/or adenoid surgeries last year and 5.8 per cent of patients returned to the emergency department after being discharged.

According to the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology, about five per cent of patients bleed after surgery and may need to return to hospital as a result.

“Tonsillectomy is considered major surgery. The main risk is bleeding, which can be serious,” the society’s website says.

“Most bleeds occur seven to 10 days after surgery, but rarely, a bleed can occur as late as 17 days after surgery,” it said.

In an emailed response to The Canadian Press, a spokesperson for Hamilton Health Sciences said that patients younger than three years or those with severe obstructive sleep apnea are kept overnight for monitoring after having tonsil and/or adenoid surgery.

But for most other children, it’s a day procedure, Lillian Badzioch said in the email.

“Most children, three years of age and older that have tonsil and adenoid surgery are discharged home the same day as per clinical practice guidelines and after they’ve met the criteria for safe discharge,” Badzioch said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2024.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

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