Tonsils and Surgery

Tonsils And Their Function

Tonsils are small glands and are a part of the immune system. They fight germs in young children. After the age of about three years, and repeated infections the tonsils become less important in fighting germs, and sometimes can be the cause of infections.

Why Take Them Out?

The following are some common reasons for taking the tonsils out:

  • Frequent tonsillitis requiring repeated courses of antibiotics and time off school or work: this is the commonest reason
  • Large in size causing airway obstruction, snoring, sleep apnoea or eating problems
  • A quinsy: which is an abscess around the tonsils
  • Tonsils occasionally may give rise to bad breathe because of food trapping
  • When there is suspicion of cancer

Before the Operation

  • Arrange for two weeks off of work or school
  • Any form of chest infection or tonsillitis should be treated and should have an infection free period of 6 weeks
  • Any unusual bleeding or bruising problems should be investigated and treated adequately

How is the operation done?

  • Under a general anaesthetic, the tonsils will be removed through the mouth. A number of techniques such as cold steel tonsillectomy, bipolar diathermy, coblation and lasers may be used depending on the surgeons preference
  • Bleeding is controlled and then you are woken up and sent to the recovery room
  • This takes about 30 minutes
  • The procedure is done as a day case, which means overnight hospital stay is not required

Possible Complications

Tonsil surgery is very safe, but carries specific risks:

  • Bleeding: can be serious requiring a second operation
  • Damage to the teeth (chips, dislodging of caps and crowns)
  • Troublesome pain affecting both the throat and ears

What to expect after the operation

  • Nausea is very common and settles quickly, occasionally requiring medication
  • A very painful throat for approximately ten days is to be expected. It is important to take painkillers regularly, half an hour before meals for at least the first week
  • Strictly avoid aspirin or related painkillers because it may make you bleed
  • If you are giving painkillers to your child following tonsillectomy, please ensure that you do not give more than it states on the label
  • Eat normal food – it will help healing and reduce the pain too
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Ice cubes and chewing gum may also help with the pain
  • Because the throat and ears have the same nerves earache is common, and does not mean ear infection
  • Throat will look white – this is normal while it heals and does not imply an infection
  • Throat infection after surgery is related to poor eating and may result in bad smell from the mouth and fever with increasing pain and bleeding. If this happens please seek medical attention immediately

Adults and children will need 10 to 14 days off work or school. It is best to avoid smoke exposure, people with coughs and colds and crowded places. Tiredness is common and settles within a few days.

Bleeding can be serious

If you notice any bleeding from your throat, you must see a doctor. We advise that you go to your nearest accident and emergency department immediately.

Please click HERE for more information on the ENTUK website



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