Tonsils are lymph glands in the throat, one on each side. They serve very little purpose. After the age of about three years, the tonsils become less important in fighting germs and often shrink. Your body can still fight germs perfectly without them. Much research has shown this to be true.
A tonsillectomy (an operation to remove the tonsils) is only recommended if they are doing more harm than good. The main indication is a history of frequent tonsillitis requiring repeated courses of antibiotics and time off school or work or if they are large and block the airway. This may manifest as significant snoring at night with brief pauses in the breathing pattern.
A quinsy, which is an abscess that develops alongside the tonsil, as a result of tonsil infection is most unpleasant. People who have had a quinsy therefore often choose to have a tonsillectomy to prevent having another.
Arrange for one week off work or school. Let us know if you have a chest infection or tonsillitis before the admission date because it may be better to postpone the operation. It is very important to tell us if has you have any unusual bleeding or bruising problems, or if this type of problem might run in the family.
You will be asleep under general anaesthesia. The tonsils will be removed through the mouth, and then you are woken up and sent to the recovery room.. This takes about 30 minutes.
It is advisable to stay in hospital for one night. In some hospitals tonsil surgery is done as a day case, if your home is close to the hospital. Either way, we will only let you go home when you are eating and drinking and feel well enough.
Tonsil surgery is very safe, but every operation has a small risk. The most serious problem is bleeding. This may rarely need a second operation to stop it. About two out of every 100 children who have their tonsils out will need to be taken back into hospital because of bleeding, and most will settle when treated with strong antibiotics. Only one of every 100 may need a second operation to stop the bleeding. Adults have a slightly higher risk of bleeding than children.
Very rarely during the operation, there is a very small chance that we may chip or knock out a tooth, especially if it is loose, capped or crowned. Please let us know if you have any teeth like this.
Your throat will be sore for approximately ten days. It is important to take painkillers regularly, half an hour before meals for at least the first week. Do not take aspirin because it may make you bleed. If you are giving painkillers to your child following tonsillectomy do not give more than it says on the label and give it regularly, which is better than waiting for pain to build up. Eat normal food – it will help your throat to heal. It will help the pain too. Drink plenty and stick to bland non spicy food. Chewing gum may also help the pain.
You may have sore ears. This is normal – it happens because your throat and ears have the same nerves. It does not mean that you have an ear infection.
Your throat will look white – this is normal while your throat heals.
Some people get a throat infection after surgery, usually if they have not been eating properly. If this happens you may notice a fever and a bad smell from your throat. Call your doctor for advice if this happens.
Adults and children will need a week off work or school. Make sure you rest at home away from crowds and smoky places. Keep away from people with coughs and colds. You may feel tired for the first few days.
If you notice any bleeding from your throat, you must see a doctor.