Tonsillectomy is an operation where the tonsils are removed. It is usually performed in someone who has recurrent sore throats due to tonsillitis or because they interfere with breathing and swallowing.
The adenoids are similar to the tonsils and are sited at the back of the nose above the soft palate. Adenoidectomy is an operation to remove the adenoids. They are removed because of recurrent colds, because they can interfere with breathing and sleep or because they can be a factor in persistent ear problems.
Before the operation you would have had a consultation with an Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon. The need for a tonsillectomy / adenoidectomy would have been discussed taking into consideration the degree of disability you face with your symptoms.
You are advised to take one week off work / school after your operation. Whilst awaiting your operation and in the post-operative period you are advised not to take aspirin or aspirin-containing compounds as they can increase the risk of bleeding at the time of surgery.
The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic. You would usually be admitted on the day of your operation and would normally be discharged within twenty-four to thirty-six hours. The tonsils are removed through the mouth. The adenoids are removed under direct vision using an endoscope inserted into the nose and a special instrument passed through the mouth. It is important that we make sure that you are managing to eat and drink before your discharge. If you are unable to eat and drink it is likely that your stay in hospital will be prolonged.
Once the tonsils are removed you are left with a raw area at the back of the throat. Your throat will, therefore, be quite painful following the tonsillectomy. While most of the pain subsides in about a week it can take two weeks for the discomfort to disappear completely. Adenoidecomy in itself is not usually painful.
We would ensure that you get adequately strong painkillers to help with the pain. You must take them regularly as prescribed. Also, you will be encouraged to start eating and drinking as soon as you are allowed to following surgery. The sooner you begin to eat and drink the quicker the pain will subside. This also reduces the incidence of post-operative infection. Chewing gum helps keep the mouth clean and encourages movement of the throat muscles
It is normal to see a white/grey coating at the back of your throat while the raw area is healing. This gradually disappears as healing progresses.
It is common to have a pain in the ears following a tonsillectomy. This is due to radiation of pain from the tonsil area to your ears.
As with every operation there is always a risk of complications, although uncommon.
Bleeding in the post-operative period is a rare but main complication following a tonsillectomy / adenoidectomy. This may occur anywhere from immediately following the operation up to a week later. Approximately five out of every one hundred patients have a bleed. Only one half of these need to remain in hospital or return to the operating theatre because of bleeding. If you have any bleeding from your throat following discharge from the hospital you are advised to contact the nearest Accident and Emergency Department immediately.
Occasionally the throat may become infected. This may either cause increased pain or in itself be a cause for bleeding. If this occurs you would require antibiotics and might have to be admitted to hospital.
This information leaflet is only a guide to tonsillectomy and does not replace a full and detailed discussion with you surgeon regarding your condition, the benefits and risks of the operation, and other alternative treatment available.
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