Less pain, shorter recovery with new tonsil removal procedure

A new thermal welding procedure during tonsil removal means less pain and a shorter recovery for patients.

Richard Bryarly portrait

Dr. Richard Bryarly

A tonsillectomy is a procedure used for the past 3,000 years to remove the tonsils and treat problems associated with them, such as acute tonsillitis or adenoiditis, obstructive sleep apnea, nasal airway obstruction, and snoring.

Doctors traditionally have used a local anesthetic and pain medications to help ease patients through the surgery and healing process.

But the risks associated with tonsillectomies continue, says Dr. Richard Bryarly, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor with ADC. The risks include complications from post-operative bleeding and dehydration, and a painful recovery time that can linger for several weeks.

New technology = more rapid recovery

Many of the potential health complications of a tonsillectomy come from the surgical tools and techniques used to remove the tonsils. Forceps, scoops, and technology using heat, lasers or sound waves often cause bleeding and burns.

But that’s changing with a new alternative called tissue welding that speeds recovery time and reduces damage to surrounding tissue, says Bryarly, who was the first physician in Austin to introduce the new procedure.

“At first I was as skeptical with this technology, as I am with any other new technique,” adds Dr. Bryarly. “But as soon as I started using tissue welding, I noticed a big difference.”

Bryarly says tissue welding works by using direct heat and pressure to delicately seal and divide soft tissue while minimizing bleeding. Because the tissue welding forceps tool can be adjusted to precise temperatures for optimal use, Dr. Bryarly says he can now perform tonsillectomies more accurately and efficiently than with the other techniques.

The new technology could also dramatically shorten recovery times for those who get tonsillectomies, one of the most common surgical procedures for children in the United States. Two-thirds of the 500,000 people in the U.S. who get a tonsillectomy each year are children. But the rest are adults. With the new technology, adults who need a tonsillectomy won’t have to worry about taking as much time off recover. For children it can mean a faster return to school.

“Using the old technology, I would sometimes have patients that needed to receive intravenous fluids for 10 days after their tonsillectomy, because they could not yet drink normally,” says Dr. Bryarly, who has been performing tonsillectomies for 35 years. “With tissue welding, some patients are eating solid foods within a few days of their procedure. It’s a striking difference.” Bryarly says patients heal faster with the new technique and have not only a shorter but a less painful recovery.