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Your ENT and Hearing Care Specialists

What to Expect During Tonsil Surgery

Child with ENT

Tonsil surgery, also known as a tonsillectomy, is a procedure carried about by ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists and is designed to remove a patient’s tonsils. A similar procedure, adenoidectomy, is used to remove the adenoids, a gland in young children that produces antibodies that help to fight infection. The purpose of these two procedures is to reduce the size of the tonsils and adenoids if they are causing sore throat, bad breath or sleep apnea.

What causes a tonsil infection?

Tonsils are often the first thing that bacteria and viruses come in contact with. They produce white blood cells that circulate your body to fight infections. However, the tonsils can also be infected by invading bacteria and viruses, which causes them to become vulnerable. Whether it’s something simple like a common cold or a bacterial infection such as strep throat, tonsillitis can be a troublesome problem that affects both adults and children.

What does a tonsillectomy involve?

Tonsil surgery is designed to remove the tonsils. In children, the adenoids may also be removed. Adults do not have adenoids (they shrink and eventually disappear once you reach adulthood) hence why this isn’t an issue for adults.

Before the procedure, you’ll be required to stop taking anti-inflammatory medication two weeks before the date of the procedure. This type of medication includes ibuprofen and aspirin. These drugs can increase the chances of you bleeding during and after your surgery, so you should always let your doctor know if there are any supplements or medication you are taking. You’ll also need to fast at midnight before your procedure. This involves no drink or food to help you reduce the chances of feeling nauseous from the anesthetic. You will likely need someone to help you get home and also assist you or the first couple of days after the tonsillectomy.

The procedure itself can be performed in many different ways. The most common is known as the cold knife dissection, where your ENT specialist will remove your tonsils with a scalpel. Another common method involves burning tissue away with a process known as cauterization. Your ENT will suggest a method to you and let you know the risks involved so that you can be a hundred percent sure of what to expect. Tonsillectomies usually don’t take longer than half an hour.

It’s important to stay hydrated after your procedure. This can be done by sipping water constantly or eating ice pops. After a day or two, you can include cold foods such as pudding and ice cream to help you stay hydrated. It’s important to avoid hard foods that could irritate the soft area where the tonsillectomy was performed.

Risks of tonsil surgery

Tonsillectomy is a common procedure that your ENT specialist will have carried out many times in their life. However, all surgeries do come with some inherent risk.

For tonsil surgery, this includes swelling, infection, excessive bleeding or an adverse reaction to the anesthetic. Outside of these minor risks, there are no major concerns to worry about.


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