Tonsils removal; Tonsillitis - tonsillectomy; Pharyngitis - tonsillectomy; Sore throat - tonsillectomy
Tonsillectomy is a surgery to remove the tonsils.
The tonsils are glands at the back of your throat. The tonsils are often removed along with the adenoid glands. That surgery is called adenoidectomy and is most often done in children.
The surgery is done while the child is under general anesthesia. Your child will be asleep and pain-free.
After surgery, your child will stay in the recovery room until he or she is awake and can breathe easily, cough, and swallow. Most children go home several hours after this surgery.
The tonsils help protect against infections. But children with large tonsils may have problems breathing at night. The tonsils may also trap excess bacteria which can lead to frequent or very painful sore throats. In either of these cases, the child's tonsils have become more harmful than protective.
You and your child's health care provider may consider a tonsillectomy if:
The risks for any anesthesia are:
The risks for any surgery are:
Rarely, bleeding after surgery can go unnoticed and becomes apparent when the child vomits blood. Some children will also be unable to drink enough liquids to maintain adequate hydration and may require an IV placed to replenish fluids.
Another risk includes injury to the uvula (soft palate).
Your child's provider may ask your child to have:
Always tell your child's provider what medicines your child is taking. Include any medicines, herbs, or vitamins you bought without a prescription.
During the days before the surgery:
On the day of the surgery:
A tonsillectomy is most often done in a hospital or surgery center. Your child will go home the same day as the surgery. Children rarely need to stay overnight in the hospital for observation.
Complete recovery takes about 1 to 2 weeks. During the first week, your child should avoid people who are sick. It will be easier for your child to become infected during this time.
After surgery, the number of throat infections is most often lower, but your child may still get some.
Goldstein NA. Evaluation and management of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 186.
Mitchell RB, Archer SM, Ishman SL, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: tonsillectomy in children (update). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;160(2):187-205.PMID: 30921525. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30921525/.
Told TN. Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. In: Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 66.
Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 411.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 8/31/2021
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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