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October 22, 1973

Tonsillectomy Mortality

JAMA. 1973;226(4):469. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230040043027

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To the Editor.—  As a practicing otolaryngologist, I try to keep up with the current controversy regarding tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy and I read these articles with care.One thing that has concerned me recently in several articles has been the statement of surgical risk. The pediatrician, Harris, D. Riley, Jr., MD, in answer to a question (225:532, 1973) implied that there are 2,000 deaths per year from tonsillectomies. I've heard and read that it's from 100 to 400, although in a paper given at the American Academy of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology several years ago, only five deaths were mentioned. I feel that this is extremely important to document.There is a great difference in talking to parents about risk with a procedure with five deaths per year and 2,000 deaths per year. What is Dr. Riley's source for this statement? I believe that The Journal, in interest to practicing physicians