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The tonsils are glands in the back of the throat. A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils.
Tonsillectomy is most often done when other nonsurgical treatments have not worked for:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a tonsillectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before your tonsillectomy.
Your doctor may:
Leading up to your procedure:
General anesthesia is most commonly used. You will be asleep for the procedure. If necessary, the surgery can also be done with sedation and local anesthesia.
The anesthesia will be given through an IV or by a mask. The doctor will grasp each tonsil with a special tool. The tonsils will then be cut away from the surrounding tissues and removed. The tonsils may be cut out with a scalpel or hot knife. An electrical current or clamps and ties will be used to stop bleeding at the site.
About 20-60 minutes
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. After the procedure, you will find it difficult to swallow due to throat pain. You may also experience ear pain.
Your doctor will either give you pain medicine or recommend over-the-counter products to relieve pain.
This procedure is most often done in a hospital setting. It may be possible to leave the hospital on the day of the procedure. Some patients may need to stay in the hospital for up to two days. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
When you return home, take the following steps to help ensure a smooth recovery:
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Otolaryngology
National Library of Medicine
Canadian Family Physician
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org. Accessed July 21, 2009.
Jones P. A review of tonsillectomy to treat sore throats in children. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated April 2009. Accessed April 16, 2009.
Rothrock J. Alexander's Care of the Patient During Surgery. 11th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 1999.
4/16/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Burton MJ, Glasziou PP. Tonsillectomy or adeno-tonsillectomy versus non-surgical treatment for chronic/recurrent acute tonsillitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(1):CD001802.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 09/10/2012
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