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BACKGROUND: PFAPA syndrome (periodic fever, aphthous stomatitis, pharyngitis and cervical adenitis syndrome) is a rare clinical syndrome of unknown cause usually identified in children. OBJECTIVES: To assess the efficacy of tonsillectomy (with or without adenoidectomy) in children with PFAPA. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library, 2010 Issue 1); MEDLINE (PubMed); EMBASE; CINAHL; mRCT (metaRegister of clinical trials, including; NRR (National Research Register); LILACS; KoreaMed; IndMed; PakMediNet; China Knowledge Network; CAB Abstracts; Web of Science; BIOSIS Previews; ICTRP (International Clinical Trials Registry Platform) and Google. The date of the last search was 21 January 2010. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised studies comparing adeno-/tonsillectomy with non-surgical treatment. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. MAIN RESULTS: Two trials involving 67 children were included. One high quality study demonstrated a dramatic benefit of adenotonsillectomy in children with PFAPA diagnosed according to rigid, standard criteria with a relative 'risk' (RR) of symptom resolution after 18 months of 12.63 (95% CI 1.81 to 87.98) and a lower rate of episodes per patient-month (rate ratio 0.07; 95% CI 0.04 to 0.13). A less methodologically rigorous study enrolled some children with PFAPA, but probably included others with alternative types of recurrent pharyngitis, and performed tonsillectomy alone. This also demonstrated a significant benefit for surgery at six months: RR 1.93 (95% CI 1.11 to 3.36); rate ratio episodes per patient-month 0.10 (95% CI 0.04 to 0.28). The pooled relative risk of symptom resolution was 3.25 (95% CI 1.78 to 5.92) and the resulting number needed to treat (NNT) 2 (95% CI 1 to 3). AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The trials included in this review reported follow up at 18 and six months respectively but it is well-established that children with PFAPA recover spontaneously and treatment can be administered to try and reduce the severity of individual episodes. Therefore, the parents and carers of children with PFAPA must weigh the risks and consequences of surgery (hospitalisation, a predictable period of time postoperatively away from school/nursery, the risks of surgery) against the alternative of a finite period of recurrent episodes of disease at predictable intervals, potentially requiring time off school and the regular use of medication. It is uncertain whether adenoidectomy combined with tonsillectomy adds any additional benefit to tonsillectomy alone.

Original publication




Journal article


Cochrane Database Syst Rev

Publication Date



Adenoidectomy, Adolescent, Child, Child, Preschool, Fever, Humans, Infant, Lymphadenitis, Neck, Periodicity, Pharyngitis, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Remission, Spontaneous, Stomatitis, Aphthous, Syndrome, Tonsillectomy