Objective. We aimed to determine the incidence of abnormalpathological findings in the tonsils and/or adenoids of children undergoing tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy, and the incidence of tuberculosis of the tonsils and adenoids; suggest criteria to identify children at risk for adenotonsillar tuberculosis; and investigate the association between HIV and adenotonsillar abnormality, the cost-effectiveness of routine pathological examination of adenotonsillectomy specimens, and criteria to decide which specimens to send for histological examination.Methods. We undertook an 8-month prospective study on all children (.12 years) undergoing consecutive tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy (T&A) at Red Cross War Memorial Childrenfs Hospital. Patients were assessed pre-operatively and tonsil sizes graded pre- and intra-operatively. Blood was taken for HIV testing, and all tonsils and adenoids were examined histologically. A cost-benefit analysis was done to determine the cost-effectiveness of adenotonsillectomy routine pathology.Results. A total of 344 tonsils were analysed from 172 children (102 boys, 70 girls); 1 patient had nasopharyngeal tuberculosis, and 1 lymphoma of the tonsils; 13 (7.6%) patients had clinically asymmetrically enlarged tonsils but no significant abnormal pathological finding. The average cost of detecting a clinically significant abnormality was R22 744 (R45 488 € 2 abnormalities).Conclusions. The following criteria could improve cost-effectiveness of pathological examination of adenotonsillectomy specimens: positive tuberculosis contact at home, systemic symptoms of fever and weight loss, cervical lymphadenopathy >3 cm, suspicious nasopharyngealappearance, HIV-positive patient, rapid tonsillar enlargement or significant tonsillar asymmetry. On our evidence, routine pathological investigation for South African children does not seem to be justified.