Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the palantine tonsils, two structures located on either side of the back of your throat.
Normally, your tonsils play an infection-fighting role by aiding in the destruction of harmful bacteria and other germs that enter your body through your nose and mouth.
The adenoids, located above and behind the soft palate, play a similar role.
The tonsils often become enlarged and inflamed when fighting off an infection.
This is a condition called tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis may be associated with fever, sore throat, painful swallowing, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the front of the neck.
It is most commonly diagnosed in children, but can be seen in some adults as well.
While there are a number of indications for tonsillectomy, the most common is chronic or recurrent tonsillitis.
Chronic inflammation of the adenoids, often due to allergies, may cause blockage of the eustachian tubes increasing the risk of middle ear infections and associated hearing loss.
An adenoidectomy is the surgical removal of the adenoids.
Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are often done at the same time.
When you arrive at the hospital for your procedure, an intravenous line will be started, and you may be given a sedative to help you relax.
Most cases are done under general anesthesia, which will put you to sleep for the duration of the operation.
A breathing tube will be temporarily inserted through your mouth and into your throat to help you breathe during the operation.
Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are rarely done under local anesthesia in adults and never in children.
During your tonsillectomy, your surgeon will use a special retractor to hold your mouth open and a tongue depressor to ensure an unobstructed view of your tonsils.
Your surgeon will grasp each tonsil one at a time with tonsil forceps, cut it away from the surrounding tissue, and remove it with a snare or a tonsil guillotine clamp.
Electrocauterization or clamps and ties will stop any bleeding at the site where the tonsils are removed.
This area generally heals naturally without stitches.
The procedure for an adenoidectomy is very similar to that for a tonsillectomy.
Both procedures can generally be done in twenty to sixty minutes
After the operation, you will be taken to a recovery room until the effects of the anesthesia wear off, which usually takes about eight to ten hours.
It is not unusual for tonsillectomy patients to go home the same day as the procedure.