By Christian Duffin
Children and teenagers who have their tonsils or appendix removed have an increased risk of early heart attack.
Researchers studied national health records of children born in Sweden between 1955 and 1970. They identified 54,449 appendectomies and 27,284 tonsillectomies, and compared the subsequent incidences of acute myocardial infarction with rates among people who had not had such surgery.
Compared with those who had not had surgery, there was 44% added risk of heart attacks linked to a tonsillectomy, and 33% extra for an appendectomy. The researchers said risks were higher when both tonsils and appendices were removed, but stressed that because of the young age of the patients, the absolute extra risk was over the course of their lifetime very small.
The researchers said removing tonsils and appendices could affect the immune system, as they are secondary lymphoid organs.
Study leader Dr Imre Janszky, associate professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, concluded: 'We could investigate only premature heart attacks, which are very rare, so it is not clear to what extent our results are applicable to typical heart attacks, which occur at much older ages than in our very young cohort.'