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Clinical Pearl: Uvulectomy

Author(s): Elinor A. Graham, MD
Date Authored: September 01, 1996

Look more closely the next time that you examine the throat of a patient born in Africa. Is the uvula present and does it look normal? Uvulectomy is a traditional surgery performed on infants and children throughout Africa and in some middle Eastern countries. It is done as a traditional treatment to prevent throat infections and normally is done early in infancy or the first or second year of life. It may be done by traditional healers or by laypersons who are often barbers by profession. The procedure results in partial or complete removal of the uvula. A notch or cleft in the soft palate can be found in more extreme forms with changes in the symmetry of the arches of the palate. Complications following the surgery are common and include tetany, hemorrhage, and infection.

References

  • Eregie CO. Uvulectomy as an epidemiological factor in neonatal tetanus mortality: observations from a cluster survey. West Afr J Med. 1994 Jan/Mar 13(1); 56- 58.
  • Hartley BE, Rowe-Jones J. Uvulectomy to prevent throat infections. J Laryngol Otol. 1994 Jan. 108(1); 65-66.
  • Nathan H, Hershkovitz I, Arensburg B, Kobylianski Y, Goldschmidt Nathan M. Mutilization of the uvula among Bedouins of the South Sinai. Isr J Med Sci. 1982 July. 18(7); 774-778.
  • Prual A, Gamatie Y, Djakounda M, Huguet D. Traditional uvulectomy in Niger: a public health problem? Soc Sci Med. 1994 Oct. 39(8);1077-82.