by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. The tonsils are glands in the back of the throat.
Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is done when other methods have not helped. It may be done to treat:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
The doctor may give:
Description of the Procedure
The doctor will open the mouth. Medicine will be sprayed over the area to make it numb. A special tool will be used to hold the tonsils. The tonsils will be removed with a scalpel or electric current. Open area will be closed with stitches.
How Long Will It Take?
About 20 to 60 minutes
Will It Hurt?
Throat pain is common in the first 1 to 2 weeks. Medicine and home care help
Average Hospital Stay
You may be able to leave after the procedure. If you have problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, the staff may give you pain medicine.
It will take about 2 weeks to recover from surgery. Certain foods and activities may need to be avoided during this time. You may also need to delay your return to work.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American College of Surgeons
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
How to prepare for tonsil and adenoid surgery. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: https://www.enthealth.org/be_ent_smart/how-to-prepare-for-tonsil-and-adenoid-surgery. Accessed December 14, 2020.
Mitchell RB, Archer SM, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: Tonsillectomy in Children (Update). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Feb;160(1_suppl):S1-S42.
Tonsillectomy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Accessed December 14, 2020.
Last reviewed April 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD