McMaster Children’s Hospital has cancelled roughly 100 tonsil and adenoid surgeries since the death of two children.

The hospital paused all tonsil and adenoid surgeries for patients 17 and under on June 4, shortly after the death of a second child who had undergone the routine procedure. The children died, one in May and the other in June, after they were discharged from the hospital.

In an update this week, the hospital said pediatric tonsil and adenoid surgeries are still paused. That’s led to approximately 100 surgeries being postponed as of June 17.

The hospital is contacting affected families and has enlisted an independent third party to review its tonsil and adenoid program, hospital president Bill Squires said in a video attached to Tuesday’s update. 

“We’re acting cautiously and swiftly,” he said. 

The CBC reached out to Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), which operates McMaster Children’s Hospital, to request an interview or comment. A spokesperson referred the CBC to its June 17 online update.

HHS has declined all interview requests since the surgeries were paused on June 4, communicating with the general public only through press releases and video messages.  

All other surgeries at the hospital are continuing as scheduled, Squires said in the video.

Deaths in these cases are rare

Tonsils and adenoids are lymph nodes in the back of the throat and nose.  

According to the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, adenoidectomy is “a common procedure … almost always performed on pre-teenage children.” 

Dr. Hamdy El-Hakim, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the University of Alberta, told the CBC earlier this month the two deaths at McMaster are “incredibly sad and incredibly rare.”

Bleeding can become an issue in a minority of cases, the hospital said in its update.

McMaster Children’s Hospital performed 584 tonsil and adenoid surgeries in 2023-24, according to Tuesday’s update, with 5.8 per cent of cases warranting a trip to the emergency room.

The hospital said it has found no connection between the two recent deaths.

Hospital administrators are asking patients and families with questions to contact the HHS’s Patient Experience department at [email protected] or 905-521-2100 ext. 75240.

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