Tonsillectomy by Means of Plasma-Mediated Ablation: Prospective, Randomized, Blinded Comparison With Monopolar Electrosurgery | Otolaryngology | JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery | JAMA Network
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Original Article
June 2002

Tonsillectomy by Means of Plasma-Mediated Ablation: Prospective, Randomized, Blinded Comparison With Monopolar Electrosurgery

Author Affiliations

From the Divisions of Otolaryngology (Dr Shah and Ms Briggs) and Anesthesiology and Critical Care (Dr Galinkin and Ms Chiavacci), The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (Dr Shah and Ms Briggs), Philadelphia, Pa.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2002;128(6):672-676. doi:10.1001/archotol.128.6.672

Objective  To compare plasma-mediated ablation (PMA) with monopolar electrosurgery (MES) for pediatric tonsillectomy.

Design  Prospective, randomized, blinded study.

Setting  Academic children's hospital.

Participants  Thirty-four children, aged 4 to 7 years.

Interventions  Tonsillectomy by means of PMA (n = 17) or MES (n = 17).

Outcome Measures  We measured surgical efficacy, estimated blood loss, and surgical time during tonsillectomy and morphine use, immediate postoperative pain, and recovery scores after tonsillectomy. Parents recorded recovery of normal diet and activity and their own return to work for 10 days after surgery. Histopathologic evaluation of excised tonsils was performed. We reviewed medical records and attempted follow-up telephone contact.

Results  With no significant difference in blood loss compared with MES, PMA was effective for tonsillectomy. Performance of PMA took longer (24 vs 16 minutes; P = .002). Results of histopathologic evaluation showed less thermal injury with PMA than with MES (P = .03). Morphine consumption, pain, and recovery scores were equivalent between groups. We found no significant difference in recovery of normal diet and activity or parental return to work. Patients undergoing PMA had a greater number of perioperative complications than those undergoing MES, including 2 patients in the PMA group (compared with none in the MES group) who required unplanned admission for postoperative airway obstruction.

Conclusions  Plasma-mediated ablation for pediatric tonsillectomy resulted in less histopathologic thermal injury than MES, but did not show a statistically faster recovery to normal activity and diet or parental return to work. In addition, PMA took longer to perform, and had more complications. Therefore, PMA should not replace MES for pediatric tonsillectomy. The reduced thermal injury with PMA supports investigation into other means of using plasma ablation to treat tonsillar hypertrophy.