Skip to main content

Tonsil Surgery Linked to Weight Gain in Kids Under 6

(Image credit: Dreamstime)

Some kids gain weight after having surgery to remove their tonsils, and the risk is greatest for those less than 6 years old, a new study finds.

In the study, which analyzed information from 115 children ages 6 months to 18 years, the average weight gain six months after a tonsillectomy was two to five pounds.

Weight gain was most likely in children ages 2 to 6 years old, particularly if the kids were underweight or normal weight at the time of surgery, the researchers said.

Previous studies have linked tonsil surgery to weight gain, but it was not clear which kids were most at risk to pack on extra pounds.

The findings suggest that parents of overweight children do not need to be overly concerned that their child's weight will increase after tonsil surgery, said study researcher Dr. Stacey Ishman, an otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But parents should closely watch their child's diet after surgery, and make changes in the child's calorie intake if needed, Ishman said.

Contrary to what some studies have suggested, the new study did not find a link between the child's risk of weight gain and the reason he or she needed the surgery in the first place. Children with obstructive sleep apnea were just as likely to gain weight after surgery as those who had the operation because of frequent tonsil inflammation.

The reason for the link between weight gain and tonsil surgery is not known. However, it's possible that children who have their tonsils removed because of frequent throat infections find it easier to eat after surgery, because they experience fewer infections, Ishman said.

In addition, some children might just be catching up after the surgery to what is a normal weight for their age, Ishman said.

The study will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgeons in Washington, D.C.

Pass it on: Young children are most at risk for weight gain after surgery to remove tonsils.

Follow Rachael Rettner on Twitter @RachaelRettner, orMyHealthNewsDaily @MyHealth_MHND. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.