Published: Mar. 8, 2007
Updated: Oct. 5, 2010
Tonsillectomy is the removal of the tonsils. Sometimes the adenoids are removed as well. Tonsillectomy is a common throat operation that provides relief of breathing obstructions, throat infections, and recurrent childhood ear disease.
Though tonsillectomy is a safe and effective procedure, as with all surgeries, there are some risks involved, including -- on rare occasions -- anesthetic complications.
Tonsils and adenoids are removed through the mouth. Methods of removal include electrocautery, coblation, or microdebrider removal. Bleeding is controlled by thermal sealing of the blood vessels, usually at the same time.
In some cases of enlarged tonsils, they may be partially removed (intracapsular tonsillectomy) enough to improve breathing.
Yes, for one to two weeks after surgery the throat can be very sore. This is why we prescribe strong pain medicines.
You may use liquid ibuprofen after a few days to alternate with the prescribed pain medicine. This will help the inflammation and provide longer pain relief. The first three to five days are the most painful with gradual improvement afterward for up to 14 days.
Dehydration can occur if there is not enough fluid intake. Dehydration is most often a problem in the first few days and may require hospital admission for IV fluids.
In addition to the sore throat, ear or neck pain may be present. Ear pain is quite common and is called “referred pain.” The ears are not usually infected, but the nerves that transmit pain sensations in the throat also go to the ears, causing the pain to feel like it is in the ears.
Neck pain may be from the position in the operating room, but it should be reported to the doctor’s office if you or your child has any trouble turning the head.
Chewing gum can be helpful as it exercises the muscles of the jaw that are often sore after the tonsillectomy, therefore contributing to throat pain. (Please avoid aspirin gum.)
An ice pack on the neck may also help. Gargling with salt water can minimize the growth of bacteria on the scabs in the back of the throat.
Most importantly, taking in plenty of fluids and regularly using the pain medication for the first few days will make it easier to recover.
Report any bleeding immediately. Bleeding usually happens between seven and 10 days after surgery when the wet scabs in the back of the throat are sloughing off. Usually this is a brief bleed that is not significant. However, sometimes this bleeding can precede more severe bleeding and is a warning sign.
Call your doctor if you experience any of the following: