Clinical Topics — Uvulectomy

Ethiopians believe that if a baby has a uvula and a sore throat develops, the baby will suffocate.1 Uvulectomy is thus performed prophylactically in the first works of life or subsequent to respiratory infection by a traditional healer known as ankar korach or intil korach (tonsil/uvula cutter)1-4 resulting in partial or total removal of the uvula.1,5 In the northern city of Gondar, nearly 99% of those surveyed believed that the uvula initiated airway blockage, and 86% of the 853 children under five years who were examined had undergone uvulectomy.1,6 In Jimma, the regional capital of southwest Ethiopia, 35% of 1563 infants had undergone uvulectomy in their first year of life.7 Implements used for this procedure include scissors, a horse hair, or a sickle-shaped knife.1,8 Complications include tetanus, meningitis, sepsis, and hemorrhage.8-12

References

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4.) Young, A. Internalizing and externalizing medical belief systems – an Ethiopian example. Soc Sci & Med 1976;10:147-156.
5.) Hartley BE, Rowe-Jones J. Uvulectomy to prevent throat infections. J Laryngol Otol. 1994 Jan. 108(1); 65-66.
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11.) Katz SS. Uvulectomy: A common ethnosurgical procedure in Africa. Med Anthropol Q 1989; 3(1):62-69
12.) Vecchiato NL: Traditional medicine, In Kloos H, Ahmed Zein Z (Eds): The Ecology Of Health And Disease in Ethiopia. Boulder, Colo, Westview Press, 1993: 157-178