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Increase in number of children admitted to hospital for acute throat infections

The number of children admitted to hospital in England for acute throat infections increased by 76 per cent between 1999 and 2010, according to new research published by Elizabeth Koshy and colleagues in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. The article was covered by a number of media outlets, including the BBC.

Acute throat infection (ATI), which includes acute tonsillitis and acute pharyngitis, is one of the most common reasons for consulting a GP. The majority of ATIs are self-limiting and can be managed at home or by the GP, but a small proportion may require hospital admission.

This study investigated admission rates for children up to age 17 with ATI alongside trends in tonsillectomy rates, between 1999 and 2010.  The study was motivated by concerns that the decline in tonsillectomy rates in recent years has led to an increase in hospital admissions for tonsillitis of increased severity. It also investigated whether performing fewer tonsillectomies is associated with higher rates of complications such as quinsy, an abscess that can occur when an infection spreads from a tonsil to the surrounding area.

Dr Elizabeth Koshy, lead study author from the Department of Primary Care & Public Health at Imperial College London, said the rise in hospital admissions for this type of infection was concerning.

"Our findings relating to short hospital stays suggest that many of the children admitted with acute throat infections could have been effectively managed in the community. Our study highlights the need to urgently address the issue of healthcare access, with improved models of integrated care within primary and secondary care, to avoid potentially unnecessary hospital admissions for relatively minor infections in the future."

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