This webpage will give you information about a tonsillectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is a tonsillectomy?
A tonsillectomy is an operation to remove the tonsils, part of a group of lymphoid tissues (like the glands in your neck) that help to fight off infection from germs that are breathed in or swallowed.
Tonsillitis happens if the tonsils become infected (see figure 1). A tonsillectomy is usually recommended if you have had at least seven attacks of tonsillitis in a year, five attacks each year for two years in a row or three attacks each year for three years in a row. In adults, tonsillitis tends to be more severe and there is less likelihood of the attacks stopping on their own.
Figure 1 - Tonsillitis
What are the benefits of surgery?
A tonsillectomy will prevent you from getting tonsillitis and the resulting pain, fever and difficulty swallowing.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back. In children, a long course of antibiotics may break a cycle of frequent infections. In adults, this treatment is less likely to be effective, especially following glandular fever.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about half an hour.
Your surgeon will perform the tonsillectomy through your mouth. They will cut or peel the tonsil away from the layer of muscle underneath it, or use heat to remove the tonsil and cauterise the area. They will then stop any extra bleeding.
What complications can happen?
1 General complications
- Infection in the surgical site (wound)
- Blood clots
2 Specific complications
- Small pieces of the tonsil may be left behind
- Lingual tonsillitis
- Change of taste
- Feeling you have something in your throat
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the following day.
The pain can last for up to two weeks and tends to be worse first thing in the morning.
You will need to stay off work or school and away from groups of people for two weeks after the operation.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
If left untreated, tonsillitis can cause complications. Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back.
Author: Miss Ruth Capper MD FRCS (ORL-HNS)
Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.