What Is an Adenoidectomy (Adenoid Removal)?
Adenoid removal, also called adenoidectomy, is a common surgery
to remove the adenoids. The adenoids are glands located in the roof of the
mouth, behind the soft palate where the nose connects to the throat.
The adenoids produce antibodies (white blood cells) that help
fight infections. Typically, the adenoids shrink during adolescence and may
disappear by adulthood.
Doctors often perform adenoid removals and tonsillectomies
(removal of the tonsils) together. Chronic throat and respiratory infections
often cause inflammation and infection in both glands.
Why the Adenoids Are Removed
Frequent throat infections can cause the adenoids to enlarge.
Enlarged adenoids can obstruct breathing and block the Eustachian tubes, which
connect your middle ear to the back of your nose. Clogged Eustachian tubes
cause ear infections that can jeopardize your child’s hearing and respiratory
Symptoms of Enlarged Adenoids
Swollen adenoids block the airways and can cause the following
- frequent ear infections
- sore throat
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty breathing through the nose
- habitual mouth breathing
- obstructive sleep apnea, which involves periodic
lapses in breathing during sleep
Repeated middle ear infections due to swollen adenoids and
clogged Eustachian tubes have serious implications, such as hearing loss, which
can also lead to speech problems.
Your child’s doctor may recommend an adenoid removal if your
child has chronic ear or throat infections that:
- don’t respond to antibiotic treatments
- occur more than 5 or 6 times per year
- impede your child’s education due to frequent
Preparing for an Adenoidectomy
The mouth and throat bleed more readily than other areas of the
body, so your doctor may request a blood test to find out whether your child’s blood
clots correctly and if their white and red blood count is normal. Preoperative
blood tests can help your child’s doctor ensure that there won’t be excessive
bleeding during and after the procedure.
In the week before surgery, don’t give your child any medicine
that can affect blood clotting, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. You may use acetaminophen
(Tylenol) for pain. If you’re in doubt about which medicines are appropriate,
talk with your doctor.
The day before surgery, your child should have nothing to eat or
drink after midnight. This includes water. If the doctor prescribes medicine to
be taken before the surgery, give it to your child with a small sip of water.
How an Adenoidectomy Is Performed
A surgeon will perform an adenoidectomy under general anesthesia
(a drug-induced deep sleep). This is usually done in an outpatient setting,
which means that your child can go home on the day of the surgery.
The adenoids are usually removed through the mouth. The surgeon
will insert a small instrument into your child’s mouth to prop it open. They’ll
then remove the adenoids by making a small incision or by cauterizing, which
involves sealing the area with a heated device.
Cauterizing and packing the area with absorbent material, such as
gauze, will control bleeding during and after the procedure. Stitches aren’t
After the procedure, your child will stay in a recovery room
until they wake up. You’ll receive medication to reduce pain and swelling. Patients
will typically go home from the hospital on the same day as the surgery.
Complete recovery from an adenoidectomy usually takes one to two weeks.
After an Adenoidectomy
A sore throat for two to three weeks after surgery is normal. It’s
important to drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. Good hydration actually
helps to alleviate pain. Don’t feed your child spicy or hot foods or foods that
are hard and crunchy for the first couple of weeks. Cold liquids and desserts
are soothing for your child’s throat.
While your child’s throat is sore, good diet and drink options
- fruit juice
- ice cream
- apple sauce
- warm chicken or beef broth
- soft-cooked meats and vegetables
An ice collar can help with pain and reduce swelling. You can
make an ice collar by placing ice cubes in a zip-lock bag and wrapping the bag
in a towel. Place the collar on the front of your child’s neck.
Your child should avoid strenuous activity for up to one week
after surgery. Your child may return to school in three to five days if they
feel up to it and have the surgeon’s approval.
Risks of an Adenoidectomy
Adenoid removal is usually a well-tolerated operation. Risks from
any surgery include bleeding and infection at the surgery site. There are also
risks associated with anesthesia, such as allergic reactions and breathing
Be sure to tell the doctor if your child is allergic to any
Adenoidectomies have a long history of excellent results. After
surgery, most children:
- have fewer and milder throat infections
- have fewer ear infections
- breathe easier through the nose