Procedure, Advantages & Benefits of Coblation Tonsillectomy

Submitted by Nic on December 9, 2013

A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure undertaken to remove the tonsils which are situated at the back of the throat. A tonsillectomy is usually recommended in individuals who have frequent upper respiratory tract infections which result in swollen tonsils. Traditionally, tonsils were removed using electro-cautery or with a scalpel and scissors. These forms of surgery had their drawback with frequent side effects, such as bleeding. In electro-cautery, the temperature of the electric knife would be in excess of 400˚C. The high temperatures would result in high amounts of damage to the surrounding tissue, a fact which meant that recovery was a painful and long drawn out process.

Coblation Tonsillectomy is a newer form of tonsillectomy that has been developed and is considered to be superior in many ways to electro-cautery.

What is Coblation Tonsillectomy?

Coblation or cold ablation tonsillectomy is an advanced technique that uses a plasma field to ablate the tonsil tissues. The plasma consists of ionized sodium molecules and is formed using radiofrequency energy. The temperature is around 40 ˚ to 85˚ C which is far less than the 400˚ C achieved by electro-cautery. The technique can be used to quickly and safely ablate away the tonsils and the lower temperatures result in far less damage to the surrounding tissue. Coblation results in minimal pain and a much quicker recovery for patients as a result of which it is rapidly gaining in popularity amongst ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialists.

When is a Tonsillectomy Recommended?

Tonsils are usually treated with antibiotics, but recurrent infections may require a tonsillectomy if you have:

  • 3 to 4 episodes of infectious tonsillitis per year for 3 consecutive years
  • 5 episodes of infectious tonsillitis per year for 2 consecutive years
  • 7 episodes of infectious tonsillitis in 1 year

How is the Procedure Performed?

Coblation tonsillectomy is usually performed on an outpatient basis. The process itself takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is performed under general anesthesia. You will be required to stay in the hospital for only a few hours before being sent home. The procedure uses radiofrequency energy and saline to gently dissolve the inflamed tissue, thereby allowing the doctor to remove the infected tonsils.


By and large, patients report a better overall experience with this procedure as compared to traditional methods. Studies have shown that the incidence of complications such as bleeding is much less and as a result, follow up visits to the doctor are reduced. One study found that in cases of coblation tonsillectomies, doctors received 59% fewer calls or visits from patients in the two weeks after surgery when compared to other cases. The frequency of secondary infections in the tonsil bed is also much lower in the case of coblation tonsillectomy. In traditional forms of tonsillectomy, patients can take up to 3 weeks to resume their normal diet and activity levels. In the case of coblation tonsillectomy, most patients are able to resume their normal diets and activities within a few days.


Studies show that children who underwent coblation tonsillectomies experienced less pain and were able to resume their normal diets 3 times faster than those who underwent traditional tonsillectomies. This is an important factor as it lessens the chances of complications such as dehydration and malnutrition that can occur in children. These complications usually set in as the child is reluctant to eat or drink anything because swallowing is extremely painful. With coblation, the pain levels are a lot less and the child is able to swallow liquids much more easily.


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