Treatment of recurrent acute tonsillitis—a systematic review and clinical practice recommendations

Orlando Guntinas-Lichius, Katharina Geißler, Antti A. Mäkitie, Ohad Ronen, Patrick J. Bradley, Alessandra Rinaldo, Robert P. Takes, Alfio Ferlito

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: There is an ongoing debate on the indications for tonsil surgery in both children and adults with recurrent acute tonsillitis. The aim is to provide practical recommendations for diagnostics and treatment for recurrent acute tonsillitis including evidence-based decision making for tonsillectomy. Methods: A systematic literature search in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and ScienceDirect from 2014 until April 2023 resulted in 68 articles. These were the basis for the review and a comprehensive series of consensus statements on the most important diagnostics and indications for both non-surgical and surgical therapy. A consensus paper was circulated among the authors and members of the International Head and Neck Scientific Group until a final agreement was reached for all recommendations. Results: The differentiation between sore throat and tonsillitis patient episodes is mostly not feasible and hence is not relevant for diagnostic decision making. Diagnostics of a tonsillitis/sore throat episode should always include a classification with a scoring system (Centor, McIssac, FeverPAIN score) to estimate the probability of a bacterial tonsillitis, mainly due to group A streptococcus (GAS). In ambiguous cases, a point-of-care test GAS swab test is helpful. Consecutive counting of the tonsillitis/sore throat episodes is important. In addition, a specific quality of life score (Tonsillectomy Outcome Inventory 14 or Tonsil and Adenoid Health Status Instrument) should be used for each episode. Conservative treatment includes a combination of paracetamol and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In case of high probability of bacterial tonsillitis, and only in such cases, especially in patients at risk, standard antibiotic treatment is initiated directly or by delayed prescription. Tonsillectomy is indicated and is highly effective if the patient has had ≥7 adequately treated episodes in the preceding year, ≥5 such episodes in each of the preceding 2 years, or ≥3 such episodes in each of the preceding 3 years. An essential part of surgery is standardized pain management because severe postoperative pain can be expected in most patients. Conclusion: It is necessary to follow a stringent treatment algorithm for an optimal and evidence-based treatment for patients with recurrent acute tonsillitis. This will help decrease worldwide treatment variability, antibiotic overuse, and avoid ineffective tonsillectomy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1221932
JournalFrontiers in Surgery
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
2023 Guntinas-Lichius, Geißler, Mäkitie, Ronen, Bradley, Rinaldo, Takes and Ferlito.


  • outcome
  • pharyngitis
  • quality of life
  • sore throat
  • tonsillectomy
  • tonsillitis
  • tonsillotomy
  • treatment


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