by Editorial Staff and Contributors
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The tonsils are glands in the back of the throat. A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Tonsillectomy is most often done when other nonsurgical treatments have not worked for:
Possible Complications TOP
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.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
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.
Description of the Procedure TOP
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.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 20-60 minutes
Will It Hurt? TOP
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 medication or recommend over-the-counter products to relieve pain.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
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.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
When you return home, take the following steps to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
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
American College of Surgeons
Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Fact sheet: tonsils and adenoids postop. The American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.... . Updated January 2011. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Tonsils and tonsillectomies. KidsHealth from Nemours website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/ears/tonsil.html . Updated May 2013. Accessed July 23, 2013.
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 July 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013