Adenoidectomy (child)

This webpage will give you information about an adenoidectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What are adenoids?

The adenoids are part of a group of lymphoid tissues (like the glands in the neck or the tonsils) that help to fight off infection from germs that are breathed in or swallowed (see figure 1). 

Breathing can be obstructed if the adenoids

The adenoids enlarge naturally in children at around the age of three and usually shrink away again by the age of seven. 

Large adenoids can result in a blocked or runny nose and may make your child snore.If your child also has swollen tonsils, they may stop breathing while they are asleep. 

Figure 1 Breathing can be obstructed if the adenoids become enlarged.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The benefits of surgery are relief from a blocked or runny nose and, for some children, better quality of sleep. It may also improve the quality of your child’s voice and can help children suffering from glue ear by reducing the risk of fluid collecting in the middle ear.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Your doctor may be able to prescribe steroid nasal sprays to improve your child’s symptoms of a blocked nose and reduce the size of the adenoids. However, these must be used for a long time and we do not yet know the long-term effects. 

There are no other treatments for enlarged adenoids other than to leave them alone and wait for the problem to go away.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about twenty minutes. 

Your surgeon will remove the adenoids through your child’s mouth. They will place a pack in the back of the nose until the bleeding stops.

What complications can happen?

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (would)
  • Adenoid tissue regrowing

How soon will my child recover?

Your child should be able to go home the same day or the day after. 

They will need two weeks off school to avoid catching an infection that could lead to bleeding. 

Most children make a good recovery.


Enlarged adenoids is a common problem that usually does not need treatment. For those children who suffer a very blocked nose or disturbed sleep, an adenoidectomy should give them a better quality of life.


Author: Miss Ruth Capper MD FRCS (ORL-HNS) 

Illustrations: LifeART image copyright 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved.

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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