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June 17, 2024

Update on tonsil and adenoid surgical pause

On Tuesday, June 4, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) paused scheduled tonsil and adenoid surgeries for patients aged 17 and under. Out of an abundance of caution, the program was paused after two pediatric patients died following discharge from tonsil and adenoid surgery at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH). 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 their families.

While there is no apparent connection between these two tragic cases, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of the program by external subject matter experts. As a world-leading pediatric hospital, our goal is to provide the best possible care for all of our patients – they expect and deserve nothing less. As such, the review will be comprehensive.

We are in the process of contacting all families whose children have tonsil and/or adenoid surgeries scheduled at MCH. Those who have questions about their child’s surgery are encouraged to contact their care provider.

In general, patients and families with feedback or concerns about their care may contact HHS’ Patient Experience department at or 905-521-2100 ext. 75240.

We will provide additional information about scheduled tonsil and adenoid surgery at MCH when we are in a position to do so. On behalf of the team at McMaster Children’s Hospital, I wish to thank our patients, families, and community for their patience during this difficult time.

Bruce Squires
President, McMaster Children’s Hospital

About tonsil and adenoid surgery at MCH/HHS

  • Severe complications from pediatric tonsil or adenoid surgery are rare, but bleeding is a known risk, occurring in about 5% of cases. In 2023-24 McMaster Children’s Hospital performed 584 such surgeries, with a return rate to the emergency department of about 5.8%, similar to the national average. Our teams follow guidelines from the Canadian and American Societies of Otolaryngology to ensure patient safety.
  • Decisions about a child’s tonsil and/or adenoid surgery are made by the medical team based on expertise, medical guidelines, and family consent. Children under 3 or with severe sleep apnea typically stay in the hospital for 1-2 days after tonsil or adenoid surgery, while most older children go home the same day if they meet the criteria for safe discharge.
  • Emergency pediatric tonsil and adenoid surgeries are proceeding. All adult ear, nose, throat (ENT) surgeries are proceeding. The ENT Clinic also remains operational.
  • Since pausing tonsil and adenoid surgeries on June 4th, approximately 100 surgeries have been postponed.
  • Additional information: