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2 children die after tonsil, adenoid surgeries at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton

Two children have died after tonsil and/or adenoid surgery at McMaster Children's Hospital, the Hamilton hospital says, adding it's pausing such procedures as a precaution while doing a "comprehensive" review.

Hospital halting such procedures unless an emergency as it does 'comprehensive review'

A hospital seen from across a road, with a sign reading "Children's Emergency" pointing toward it.

Two children have died after tonsil and/or adenoid surgery at McMaster Children's Hospital, the Hamilton hospital said Wednesday, adding it's pausing such procedures as a precaution while doing a "comprehensive" review.

In an afternoon news release, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), which operates McMaster Children's Hospital, said, "one child passed away the day after their surgery and the second child passed away nine days after their initial surgery. We want to extend our deepest condolences to these families."

The release said the hospital "has paused scheduled tonsil and adenoid surgical procedures for patients under the age of 18 … out of an abundance of caution."

HHS declined an interview but told CBC Hamilton in an email that one child died in May and the other this month.

Surgeries were paused as of Tuesday, the hospital said, and "while there is no apparent connection between these two cases, we are also undertaking a comprehensive review by external subject matter experts of our pediatric program for tonsil and adenoid surgeries."

HHS said emergency surgeries will still take place, along with all adult ear, nose and throat (ENT) procedures.

The ENT Clinic will also remain operational.

'It's a safe surgery,' surgeon says

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."

The society says "it is usually done for longstanding nasal congestion," chronic infection, as part of a tonsillectomy procedure, to treat obstructive sleep apnea and other reasons.

Dr. Hamdy El-Hakim, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the University of Alberta, said the two deaths are "incredibly sad and incredibly rare."

"It's a safe surgery, in general," he said, emphasizing the need to verify what caused the children's deaths.

El-Hakim said that in some cases, children could die in their sleep post-surgery from sleep apnea due to bleeding, the wrong mix of pain medications or other medical issues.

He said McMaster Children's Hospital is responding "exactly the right" way.

"Caution is necessary, but there's no need for panic," he said.

"The track record of the surgery is clear … it's safe."

McMaster Children's Hospital said in the release that staff are contacting patients and families about their scheduled surgeries.

They are asking patients and families with questions to contact the HHS's Patient Experience department at patientexperience@hhsc.ca or 905-521-2100 ext. 75240.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Conrad Collaco

Producer

Conrad Collaco is a CBC News producer for CBC Hamilton with extensive experience in online, television and radio news. Follow him on Twitter at @ConradCollaco, or email him at conrad.collaco@cbc.ca.

    With files from Christine Birak

    *****
    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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