Tonsillectomy Passes the Taste Test

July 17, 2007

VIENNA, Austria -- Tonsillectomies only rarely affect taste perception, according to investigators who tested patients' sense of taste both before and after the surgery.

VIENNA, Austria, July 17 -- Tonsillectomies only rarely affect taste perception, according to investigators who tested patients' sense of taste both before and after the surgery.

Although many of the 65 adults reported a subjective decrease in taste function after the surgery, none lost it all together, reported Christian A. Mueller, M.D., of the Medical University of Vienna, and colleagues in the July issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery.

Nor did the investigators find any significant differences between pre- and post-surgery taste test scores.

Although there are published case reports of taste disorders following tonsillectomy, the authors found little evidence to support the notion that removing tonsils might rob the patient of the sensual pleasure of taste.

The investigators evaluated the effect of tonsil removal on gustatory sensation in 42 women and 23 men ages 15 to 68. All patients had gustatory testing on the day before surgery.

Testing was done using filter-paper taste strips, each impregnated with various concentrations of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter solutions. The strips were placed in random order at the posterior area of the tongue approximately 1 cm from the circumvallate papillae, and at the anterior area approximately 1.5 cm from the tip on both sides.

In all, 32 patients were available for post-tonsillectomy testing, which was performed from 64 to 173 days after surgery. The remaining 33 patients were interviewed by telephone about their subjective impressions of post-tonsillectomy taste.

The investigators found that, although there were significant differences between taste scores obtained in the posterior compared with the anterior area of the tongue (P=0.001), tonsillectomy had no major effect on taste scores obtained before surgery or after (P>0.27). Those findings remained essentially unchanged after controlling for age and gender (P