Tonsillectomy (Adult & Child)

Tonsillectomy for adults and children is a common and relatively quick surgery, most often performed to prevent tonsillitis or recurring sore throats. It is also carried out if the tonsils are swollen or large and cause breathing difficulties or sleep disorders.

What is tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy is a 30 to 45-minute surgical procedure performed under general anaesthetic to remove problem-causing tonsils.Tonsil removal surgery is usually recommended if you have:

  • Recurrent tonsillitis and sore throats – where your tonsils are inflamed, usually due to an infection.
  • Breathing difficulties – swollen or too large tonsils can cause problems with breathing and swallowing.
  • Sleep problems including snoring and sleep apnoea - enlarged tonsils can cause these.

There are several different surgeries to remove your tonsils, that include:

  • Dissection – the most common method that cuts out your tonsils using a scalpel.
  • Laser or ultrasound – laser surgery used to remove your tonsils and typically has less pain, less bleeding, and a shorter recovery time than a dissection.
  • Diathermy - high-frequency electrical current cuts your tonsil tissue.

Why is tonsil removal worse for adults?

Tonsil removal is often worse for adults for a number of reasons. One is that adults are quick to get back to their usual routines and return to work without allowing time to recover and time away from others. They may not have taken into account the possibility that they could suffer moderate to severe throat pain for the first couple of weeks, and they might be anxious about resting and recuperating.

Another reason is that surgery is more difficult on an adult as more scar tissue has built up on their tonsils that gets in the way during the surgery.

What is the youngest age to have tonsils removed?

Tonsillitis typically occurs when children go to school or nursery as they come into contact with more germs and infections. It is seen less as a child’s tonsils start to shrink in size. The peak incidence for tonsillitis and its surgery is age four to seven. Tonsillitis is relatively uncommon after age 15.

This means that children younger than two years old rarely have their tonsils removed, but it is possible for children as young as 12 months to have a tonsillectomy. At this very young age, routine post-operative overnight inpatient observation is recommended.

What to expect after your child has a tonsillectomy?

After your child has had their tonsils removed, you can expect them to have some ear and throat pain for up to two weeks.

They may find swallowing difficult and be reluctant to eat some foods such as toast and cereal. We advise that they start eating normally as soon as they can after the operation as this helps to heal the area where the tonsils have been removed. It is very important that they drink lots of fluids too.

To ease the pain and make eating easier you can give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen, as long as you keep to the recommended dose.

It is important that your child brushes their teeth to keep their mouth free of infection, to enable sore areas to heal more quickly, and to freshen their breath.

It is advisable that your child stays off school or nursery for a couple of weeks after the operation to avoid infections from others.

What is the recovery process after a procedure for tonsillectomy?

The recovery process after a procedure for a tonsillectomy usually takes around two weeks.

You can expect to feel some pain in your throat, especially when swallowing that may make it difficult to eat and talk. Some patients also experience earache, a stiff jaw and bad breath. These will get better over time. In the meantime, your surgeon may prescribe a painkiller for your sore throat or you can use over-the-counter pain relief whilst keeping within the recommended dose.

The typical stages of recovery are:

  • The first couple of days after surgery

You may go home the same day or stay overnight in the hospital.

You are advised to rest as you will feel very tired after surgery.

Drink plenty of fluids. For the first day, you can choose easy-to-swallow foods such as soup. You should then eat your normal diet to help your wound to heal and prevent infection.

  • 3 to 4 days post-op

Continue to rest and stay hydrated. Keep the healing area where the tonsils were clean by eating foods like toast and cereal. You may try taking painkillers 45 minutes before your meal to make it more comfortable to eat.

  • 5 to 10 days post-op

After your operation, yellow-white scabs will appear where your tonsils were and are a normal part of the healing process. They will fall off within the first 10 days.

When this happens, you may experience a small amount of bleeding. If you have a lot of bright red blood, you should contact your doctor as the scabs may have fallen off too early and this could require medical attention.

You will start to feel less pain with eating and swallowing becoming more comfortable. It is still important to rest and stay hydrated.

  • After 10 to 14 days following your surgery

You can expect to feel much better with the pain continuing to lessen. If you have been snoring after your surgery this will eventually stop and you will not need to breathe through your mouth any longer. Children can go back to school and adults can return to work.

You should avoid strenuous activities and sports until at least two weeks after surgery.

What is the cost of a tonsillectomy procedure

The cost to remove your tonsils will depend on the exact surgery being performed and your Ramsay hospital of choice.

You will receive a formal quotation price for your tonsil removal surgery after your consultation with one of our expert ENT surgeons that will be valid for 60 days and includes unlimited aftercare.

Ramsay is recognised by all major medical insurers. A tonsillectomy may be covered by your medical insurance policy. We advise you to obtain written authorisation from your insurance provider before your procedure.

We offer a number of finance options to pay for your tonsil removal surgery, including: All-inclusive Total Care where a single one-off payment at a pre-agreed price delivers direct access to all the treatment you need for complete reassurance, pay as you go and, medical finance loans.

Surgery for Tonsillectomy at Ramsay Health Care UK

Ramsay Health Care UK is proud to work closely with highly experienced and knowledgeable ear, nose and throat surgeons who are leaders in their filed and keep abreast of the latest research.

Our ENT surgeons offer several types of surgery to skilfully remove your tonsils and use the most up-to-date techniques and equipment. Consultations are available without waiting where you can discuss your or your child’s symptoms and medical history.

Our priority is to provide our patients with support and advice, comfort and convenience, and expert and safe care. All Ramsay hospitals have strict protocols in place to minimise the risk of infection, including Covid-19 so you and your child can visit our hospitals safely.  

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