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A tonsillectomy is a surgery to remove the tonsils. Quite often, a tonsillectomy is performed at the same time as an adenoidectomy, a medical procedure to remove the adenoid glands.

Procedure Overview

Why the procedure is performed

Tonsillectomy SurgeryThe tonsils help defend against infections. However, children with large tonsils may be more susceptible to sore throats and ear infections. You and your child’s doctor may want to consider a tonsillectomy if your child has any of the following:

  • Infections seven or more times in 1 year, or five or more times over 2 years
  • Trouble breathing or difficulty swallowing
  • Throat infections, throat abscesses or growth on their tonsils
  • Obstructed breathing during sleep

Description of procedure

The surgeon will insert a small tool into your child’s mouth to prop it open. The surgeon then cuts and/or burns away the tonsils. The doctor will control bleeding, and the cuts heal naturally without stitches. A tonsillectomy is usually done in a hospital or surgery center.

Before Surgery

    Before the procedure

    Prior to the tonsillectomy, your child’s doctor may request that your child have a blood test (complete blood count, electrolytes, clotting factors), as well as a physical exam. Make sure to communicate to your child’s doctor or nurse what drugs your child is currently taking. Also include any drugs, herbs, or vitamins you may have bought without a prescription.

    During the days before surgery

    • Ten days before surgery, you may be asked to stop giving your child aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), warfarin, and other similar drugs.
    • Ask your child’s doctor which drugs your child should still take on the day of the surgery.

    On the day of surgery

    • Your child will typically be asked not to drink or eat anything for several hours prior to the surgery.
    • Give your child any drugs your doctor instructed you to administer, along with a small sip of water.
    • Your child’s doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.
    • Your child will be given general anesthesia before surgery. They will be asleep and pain free.

    After Surgery

    After the procedure

    Your child will stay in the recovery room after surgery until they are awake and can breath easily, cough, and swallow. Nearly all children go home within several hours after this surgery is performed. Children rarely need to stay overnight in the hospital for observation. Complete recovery takes about 1 to 2 weeks. During the first week, your child should avoid people who are sick. It will be easier for your child to become infected during this time.

    After surgery, the number of throat infections is usually lower, but your child will likely still get some.  Rarely, bleeding after surgery can go unnoticed and cause serious problems. A common symptom to be aware of is excessive swallowing. It may be a sign of bleeding from the tonsils.

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    The surgery information on this page is intended as an informational resource only. Each patient and surgical situation is different. Patients should discuss details of a surgery, recovery and pain management with their doctor(s).

    The information provided above should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.