Does increased electrocautery during adenoidectomy lead to neck pain?

Lakeisha R. Henry, Thomas J. Gal, Eric A. Mair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: The objective was to assess the impact of electrocautery on complications in adenoidectomy. We sought to quantify cautery-related temperature changes in prevertebral fascia that may occur during the procedure, retrospectively evaluate the incidence of cautery-related complications, and prospectively assess the role of cautery in postoperative neck pain. METHODS: Three consecutive related trials were performed. Initially, adenoidectomy was performed on 20 fresh cadavers, using a thermister to evaluate temperature changes in the prevertebral fascia after electrocautery (30 watts over a 30-second period). Next, retrospective analysis of adenoidectomy complications in 1206 children over a 5-year period was performed. Based on these findings, a prospective study of the incidence of neck pain following adenoidectomy was performed in a cohort of 276 children. Adenoidectomy technique, wattage, and duration of electrocautery were recorded for each child. Children with significant neck pain were evaluated with MRI. RESULTS: Peak thermister readings averaged 74°C, for a mean change of 51.8°C. Complications observed in retrospective analysis included neck pain (3), Grisel's syndrome (1), prolonged velopharyngeal insufficiency (1), retropharyngeal edema (1), and severe nasopharyngeal stenosis (1). The incidence of neck pain in the prospective study was 12% (33 pts), and was independent of adenoidectomy technique, cautery wattage, or duration of cautery use. MRIs revealed edema without abscess. CONCLUSIONS: Cautery can result in substantial temperature changes in the surgical adenoid bed. Despite this, the incidence of complications, specifically neck pain, associated with adenoidectomy is low, although underreported. Complications appear to be independent of adenoidectomy technique and cautery use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-561
Number of pages6
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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