tonsillectomy header



Information about this procedure is listed under the following headings:


Why do I need this operation?

What are the intended benefits of the surgery?

How is the surgery performed?

What are the potential risks and how great are these risks?

What am I to expect after the operation?

How long will I be off work/school?

Frequently asked Questions





Why do I need this operation?

There are different reasons for performing a tonsillectomy, most commonly the indication is recurrent tonsillitis.

1) Recurrent tonsillitis - frequent attacks of tonsillitis, usually requiring time of work / school or antibiotics. Tonsillectomy is performed when the number of attacks starts to affect the lifestyle of the patient.

2) Quinsy - a quinsy is where an abscess forms in the tissues next to the tonsil following an attack of tonsillitis. Normally after two or more quinsies, a tonsillectomy is performed.

3) Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) - the tonsils may play a role in the development of OSA where the soft tissues of the neck collapse and cause breathing to be arrested during sleep. Large tonsils are more likely to play a role in children.

4) Occasionally there may be a suspicion of malignancy in a tonsil. The tonsil must be removed to aid in diagnosis and to plan treatment.



What are the intended benefits of the surgery?

Having a tonsillectomy will prevent tonsillitis from occuring, but will NOT prevent sore throats. Tonsillectomy will also prevent quinsy.



How is the surgery performed?

A general anaesthetic is administered and a device is inserted to keep the mouth open. The tonsils are then removed using various methods, the most common being by dissection.(see drawing) A diathermy device is often used to remove the tonsils and stop any bleeding.



What are the potential risks?

1) Bleeding - this is the most serious complication and can occur soon after the surgery is finished, or may occur some days later. It may be due to infection of the tonsillar beds. About 7% of patients may develop this complication. Only 1% will need to go back to theatre to stop this bleeding.

2) Infection - the tonsillar beds may become infected a few days after the procedure.



What am I to expect after the operation?

You will stay overnight on the ward and be discharged home the following day if all is well. It is very important to eat and drink properly after the operation, or the chance of complications becomes much higher, particularly infection. This is because the tonsil beds need to be cleaned of any debris from the operation. You may find it difficult to open your mouth wide after the operation due to discomfort or pain. Eating improves this symptom. You may also experience earache after the operation, this is referred pain from your throat. It is important to eat and drink, but what you eat is not as important. There is no restriction on what you eat, but rough foods are encouraged.



How long will I be off work / school?

Two weeks. This is to decrease the chance of getting a throat infection while you are healing. A doctor's note will be provided.



Frequently asked Questions

Can my tonsils grow back?

If your tonsils are completely removed, it is very unlikely that they will grow back.

Will I get more throat infections if my tonsils are removed?

You should not get any more throat infections without your tonsils, but you will not get any more attacks of tonsillitis. These throat infections will not be as painfull or debilitating as a severe tonsillitis.

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Last updated: 23 October 2004