Tonsillectomy (Child)

Tonsillectomy (Child)

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?

Tonsillitis

 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 for a child if they 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 row.

 Figure 1: Tonsillitis

What are the benefits of surgery?

A tonsillectomy will prevent your child 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 or the tonsillitis may simply stop after a few years.

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 child’s 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

  • Pain
  • Bleeding 
  • Infection in the surgical site (wound)
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications

  • Small pieces of the tonsil may be left behind
  • Lingual tonsillitis

How soon will my child recover?

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

The pain can last for up to two weeks and tends to be worse first thing in the morning.

Your child will need to stay off school and away from groups of people for two weeks after the operation. This is to help prevent throat infections while your child’s throat is still healing.

Summary

If left untreated, tonsilitis can cause complications. Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back.

Acknowledgements

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.

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