Comparison of outcomes between thermal welding forceps, controlled ablation and monopolar electrosurgery for tonsillectomy in children

Jordan R. Salley, Romaine Johnson, Ron B. Mitchell, Gopi Shah, Amy R. Coffey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare recovery from tonsillectomy using thermal welding forceps (TWF), controlled ablation (CA), and monopolar electrosurgery (MES) in children. Methods: This was a prospective single blinded observational study using data from electronic medical record (EMR) and caregiver completed patient diary, conducted at a community-based children's hospital within an academic program with tonsillectomy performed by attending surgeons. Children aged 3–17 years undergoing tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy by TWF, CA, or MES over a 4-year period were included. Demographics, intraoperative time for tonsillectomy, blood loss, patient diary documentation of pain levels, analgesic doses, diet type and events per day were recorded. In addition, EMR documentation of morbidity events (bleeding, visits for bleeding, return to operating room [OR], total visits or admissions, poor oral intake or dehydration) were noted. To assess for differences in baseline characteristics, we utilized analysis of variance and Pearson's χ2 test. To determine primary outcomes, we used a multilevel mixed-effect linear regression model. Results: A total of 369 children were enrolled, and 346 who met inclusion criteria underwent tonsillectomy. The children were categorized by the instrument used by the surgeons: CA 32.4% (n = 112), MES 36.7% (n = 127), and TWF 30.9% (n = 107). Mean age overall was 6.8 ± 3.2 years, with 57.4% female and 42.6% male. Diary return rate was 52.3% (n = 181) overall, with CA at 48.2% (n = 54), MES at 44.8% (n = 57), and TWF at 65.4% (n = 70). Average pain on the day of surgery was different between instruments with CA having the lowest level of 2.0 compared to 2.7 for TWF and MES (p = 0.001). Maximum pain level for day of surgery were lowest for CA at 2.7 compared to 3.4 for MES and 3.5 for TWF (p = 0.003). Pain levels were lowest for TWF after postoperative day (POD) 6. Overall rate of bleeding was 9.3%, with 2.6% return to surgery for control of bleeding. TWF had the lowest rate of bleeds (4.7% versus CA 11.6% and MES 11.0%), return to surgery (0.0% versus CA 2.7% and MES 4.7%), the earliest and final return to regular diet at POD 5.8 and 8.1, respectively without reaching statistical significance. Conclusion: CA had significantly lowest early pain levels on day 0–1 and trended lowest up to POD 6, after which TWF was lowest but did not reach statistical significance. TWF had the earliest return to regular diet. Children undergoing CA and MES are more likely to have a postoperative bleed and a return to the OR than TWF suggesting improved ability to seal vessels with the latter instrument. Further study with a larger sample is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110941
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Cautery
  • Coblation
  • Postoperative diet
  • Postoperative pain
  • Thermal welding forceps
  • Tonsil bleeding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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