New Technology Reduces Pain of Tonsillectomies


Vol. 10, No. 2
June, 2000

  • Longer-Lasting Implants Used for Total Hip Replacement

  • Brachytherapy Service Expands to New Island Hospital
    Brachytherapy Expertise Benefits Patients at Winthrop’s Affiliate

  • New Technology Reduces Pain of Tonsillectomies

  • Tips for Safe Use of Insect Repellent Containing DEET

  • Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Six-Bed Vascular Stepdown Unit

  • Children’s Health Services Program:
    A Wealth of Information and Referrals

  • Pediatricians on Medical Mission to El Salvador

  • Stereotactic Technology System Expands the Parameters of ‘What is Operable’

  • Stroke Team Offers the Latest Treatments

  • Team Provides New Seizure Control Procedure for Children

  • MRI Unit Receives Three-Year Accreditation from the American College of Radiology

  • Emergency Department Receives Adelphi University Award

  • Ultra-fast, Multi-slice CT Scanner Installed in Radiology Department

  • Installation of Winthrop’s Auxiliary Officers

  • Lita Reilly Elected Auxilian of the Year

  • Annual Junior Volunteer Awards Ceremony

  • Focus on Home Care:
    Care without Compromise Comes Home

  • In the Swing of Things

  • Child Life Program Expands Hours and Services

  • Copyright

    Back to Publications


  • Warren H. Zelman, MD (L), Voluntary Attending Surgeon, Section of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery at Winthrop, checked on two-year-old Cassidy Stiepleman and offered advice to her mom, Kelly, prior to discharging them from Winthrop’s Ambulatory Surgery Unit. Cassidy underwent a tonsillectomy that morning, with Dr. Zelman using a new device, the harmonic scalpel, that dramatically reduces pain and other side effects that can follow tonsillectomy.
    A new type of scalpel that uses ultrasonic energy to coagulate tissue as it cuts is enabling a smoother recovery for children who undergo tonsillectomies. The harmonic scalpel results in less bleeding than standard surgery, and uses less heat than laser surgery, which translates to far less post-operative pain and a quicker recovery.

    “We never want to see a child readmitted to the hospital due to dehydration or pain management,” commented Warren H. Zelman, MD, a Winthrop otolaryngologist who is a proponent of the device. “With the harmonic scalpel, children are able to eat soft foods and drink on day one. Their level of pain is reduced and they heal more rapidly.”

    Approximately 600,000 tonsillectomies are performed in the United States each year, making it one of the most common surgical procedures. Primarily done on children, the removal of the tonsils and often the surrounding adenoids reduces the incidence of chronic, recurrent throat infections. While complications related to the procedure are rare, they can include post-operative bleeding. In the past several years, laser technology was implemented to reduce the risk of bleeding, but the heat generated by lasers can damage surrounding tissue, resulting in severe post-operative pain.

    The harmonic scalpel uses sound waves to turn electrical energy into mechanical motion, causing the blade to vibrate at 55,500 times per second. This high speed coagulates tissue as it cuts, which reduces bleeding.

    “A laser or electrocautery can reach 400 degrees Celsius at the tip, which burns surrounding tissue,” Dr. Zelman explained. “The harmonic scalpel still coagulates, but only reaches about 100 degrees Celsius so there is no charring or burning of tissue.” The result is less damage to nearby tissue, and less sore throat pain after the procedure.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the harmonic scalpel for ear-nose-throat (ENT) surgery in 1999. Dr. Zelman is one of only a handful of local surgeons using it. “The harmonic scalpel is the perfect instrument for pediatric tonsillectomies,” he stated. “When you have a technique that allows the child to eat and drink immediately, the risk of complications such as dehydration is reduced markedly.”

    For additional information, please call (516) 663-2234.



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