Author(s): Walker RA, Syed ZA
OBJECTIVE: Using quality of life criteria, this pilot study prospectively evaluates if the ultrasonic dissector coagulator's (Harmonic Scalpel [HS], Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc, Cincinnati, OH) unique properties offer advantages over traditional electrocautery (EC) tonsillectomies with respect to return to regular diet, activity, and complications such as bleeding and dehydration. METHODS: Over a 13-month period, 316 tonsillectomies (161 EC and 155 HS) were evaluated. Return to regular diet, regular activity, and the use of postoperative pain medications were monitored via a brief questionnaire. Complications, such as increased perioperative and postoperative bleeding, were monitored by chart review. Statistical analysis of the questionnaire data was performed. RESULTS: Seventy-five (46.6%) of the patients in the EC group responded versus 97 (62.6%) in the HS group. The ages ranged from 1 to 19 years old. Return to regular diet in 24 hours was statistically significant when comparing HS and EC questionnaire responders, 44.3% versus 22.7%, respectively; as was 72 hours, HS (74.2%) and EC (46.7%). Twenty-eight percent of the HS questionnaire responders versus 12% of EC resumed normal activity within 24 hours. The perioperative blood loss was equal in the 2 groups. There were 14 late bleeds; 9 were EC patients and 5 HS patients. Two HS patients and 4 EC patients had readmissions for dehydration. CONCLUSIONS: It appears from this early pilot study that the Harmonic Scalpel tonsillectomy offers advantages of early return to diet and activity over standard electrocautery tonsillectomies. We report no difference in perioperative or postoperative bleeding.