Homewood doctor’s delicate touch draws out-of-state patients

The word is out.

Charles Amenta

Patients from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania, as well as neighboring states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, are coming to Dr. Charles Amenta, an ear, nose and throat specialist.

The Homewood doctor is one of a handful of doctors who uses the thermal fusion technique to remove tonsils. But why would people cross state lines for one of the most common surgeries in the country?

The reason is all in the recovery.

“Eleven days after it, I’m feeling fabulous,” said Rebecca Rendon.

Plenty of people who have had their tonsils removed will say they’re glad they had it done. But just Google “recovering from a tonsillectomy” and you find phrases like “unexpected and unbelievable pain” and “it felt like my throat was on fire for two weeks.”

Amenta’s patients have had a different tale to tell. In 2011, he switched to thermal fusion.

 “The procedure takes me twice as long, but for the patients, recovery is a lot faster and easier, like having one more bad sore throat,” said Amenta, a Flossmoor resident.

Amenta has performed about 150 of the surgeries, many for south suburban patients but also for those who travel great distances looking for a less painful recovery.

“One woman drove in from Iowa,” Amenta said. “Her child had had a regular tonsillectomy, but she said she had a much lower threshold for pain, so she came to me.”

Having your tonsils removed used to be a rite of passage for baby boomers when they were children. Now, Amenta said, procedures are only done for those who suffer from particular criteria: recurring strep throat (about three per year for several years), enlarged tonsils that interfere with swallowing, speaking or sleeping (one cause for sleep apnea); or having debris lodged in the tonsils that cause irritation or a bad odor.

For children, the benefits can be huge.

“Because they’re sleeping better, they don’t have night terrors. There may be a decrease in hyperactivity, which can be a result of sleep deprivation. The results can be life-changing in a child, and quality-of-life enhancing for an adult.”

About 95 percent of Amenta’s patients are adults, some in their 20s or 30s, but many others in their late 40s or 50s.

“They felt like they should have had this done, but they never felt they could tolerate the pain,” he said.

Amenta has used a half dozen surgical procedures in his career. He switched to thermal fusion at the repeated urging of the device sales representative but nearly gave it up after the first three tonsillectomies because it was so labor intensive.

“But then my staff and I noticed we weren’t getting any phone calls” from patients who typically were alarmed at the intensity and duration of post-operative pain, he said.  “It turns out that thermal fusion is no worse for them than having one more significant sore throat.”

Other ENT specialists don’t offer the technique. “It’s an obvious improvement. But this is not a high-prestige procedure,” he said.

The device, called MiFusion ENTceps, enables Amenta to save more healthy tissue while still taking out the complete tonsil. Conventional devices used to perform tonsillectomies transmit electrical energy through the patient, which can damage surrounding tissue, as well as cause excessive bleeding and intense post-operative pain. As a result, it can take days or even weeks for a patient to fully recover.

Rendon, who drove more than two hours from Fisher, Ind., is among Amenta’s patients who was pleased with the procedure.

“If I would've gone the alternate route with the cold steel ablation, I'd be in some of the worse pain of my life because around day 10, big white scabs fall off the back of the throat (uhh yuck!), resulting in horrible breath and oftentimes causing uncontrollable bleeding,” she said.

“Instead, I'm feeling no pain, have no scabs, I’m off all pain meds, have minty fresh breath and have been to work at the office for four days,” she said. “I also went on a date, took my child to the zoo, I’m eating normal food and now I'm drinking a beer. Cheers to that!”

More information on Amenta is at HomewoodENT.com.

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