Is a Tonsillectomy?
A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the
tonsils. Tonsils are two small glands located in the back of your throat.
Tonsils house white blood cells to help you fight infection, but sometimes the
tonsils themselves become infected.
Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils that can make
your tonsils swell and give you a sore throat. Frequent episodes of tonsillitis
might be a reason you need to have a tonsillectomy. Other symptoms of
tonsillitis include fever, trouble swallowing, and swollen glands around your
neck. Your doctor may notice that your throat is red and your tonsils are
covered in a whitish or yellow coating. Sometimes, the swelling can go away on
its own. In other cases, antibiotics or a tonsillectomy might be necessary.
A tonsillectomy can also be a treatment for breathing problems,
like heavy snoring and sleep apnea.
Needs a Tonsillectomy?
Tonsillitis and the need for tonsillectomies are more common
in children than adults. However, people of any age can experience trouble with
their tonsils and require surgery.
One case of tonsillitis is not enough to warrant a
tonsillectomy. Usually, the surgery is a treatment option for those who are
often sick with tonsillitis or strep throat. If you’ve had at least seven cases
of tonsillitis or strep in the last year (or five cases or more over each of
the last two years), talk to your doctor about whether a tonsillectomy is an
option for you.
Tonsillectomy can also treat other medical problems,
- breathing problems related to swollen tonsils
- frequent and loud snoring
- periods in which you stop breathing during
sleep, or sleep apnea
- bleeding of the tonsils
- trouble swallowing chewy foods, especially meats
- cancer of the tonsils
for a Tonsillectomy
You will need to stop taking anti-inflammatory medicines two
weeks before your surgery. This type of medication includes aspirin, ibuprofen,
and naproxen. Drugs of this kind can increase your risk of bleeding during and
after your surgery. You should let your doctor know about any medications,
herbs, or vitamins your are taking.
You’ll also need to fast after midnight before your
tonsillectomy. This means you shouldn’t drink or eat. An empty stomach reduces
the risk of feeling nauseous from the anesthetic.
Be sure to plan for your at-home recovery. Someone will need
to drive you home and help you for the first couple of days following your
tonsillectomy. Most people stay home from work or school for about a week
There are several different ways to remove tonsils. The most
common method is called “cold knife (steel) dissection.” In this case, your
surgeon removes your tonsils with a scalpel.
Another common method for tonsillectomy involves burning
away the tissues through a process called cauterization. Ultrasonic vibration
(using sound waves) is also used in some tonsillectomy procedures.
Tonsillectomies usually take about a half hour.
No matter what surgical method your doctor chooses, you’ll be
asleep with a general anesthetic. You won’t be aware of the surgery or feel any
pain. When you wake up after the tonsillectomy, you’ll be in a recovery room.
Medical staff will monitor your blood pressure and heart rate as you wake up.
Most people can go home the same day after a successful tonsillectomy.
Patients can experience some pain as they recover from a tonsillectomy.
You might have a sore throat after surgery. You might also feel pain in your
jaw, ears, or neck. Get plenty of rest, especially in the first two to three
days after surgery.
Sip water or eat ice pops to stay hydrated without hurting
your throat. Warm, clear broth and applesauce are ideal food choices during
early recovery. You can add ice cream, pudding, oatmeal, and other soft foods
after a couple days. Try not to eat anything hard, crunchy, or spicy for
several days after a tonsillectomy.
Pain medication can help you feel better during recovery.
Take the medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes. Contact your doctor if
you experience bleeding or run a fever after a tonsillectomy. Snoring for the
first two weeks after the procedure is normal and expected. Call your doctor if
you have trouble breathing after the first two weeks.
Many people are ready to go back to school or work within two
weeks after a tonsillectomy.
Most who have a tonsillectomy have fewer throat infections
in the future.