E-mail: pkollitisis@doctors.org.uk

Tonsil Surgery

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Tonsils are two small lymph like glands at the back of the mouth which, like adenoids, act as a barrier to germs by producing antibodies. Despite this, there are many similar glands in the body so they are not necessary. Tonsillectomy (an operation to remove the tonsils) is recommended when they are found to be doing more harm than good. The main reason is a history of frequent tonsillitis, usually 5-6 times per year requiring repeated courses of antibiotics and time off school or work.

Another indication for removing tonsils is if they are very large and blocking the upper airway. This may present as loud snoring at night with brief pauses in the breathing pattern. Another reason why tonsils may best be removed is a peritonsilar abscess (quinsy) that extends beyond the tonsil, as a result of the tonsil infection and frequently requires special management.

The operation is done under a quick general anaesthetic through the mouth and takes approximately 30 minutes. The child is kept in for the day and kept under observation as there may seldom be some bleeding after the operation which may rarely require going back to theatres. However this is not at all common as tonsilar surgery is very safe. The risk for infection and bleeding remains for up to 2 weeks but is only in the region of 1% of tonsillectomies. It is equally rare that a tooth may be chipped or knocked especially if it is loose.

The child can usually go home on the same day of the operation and will require a week off from school and avoiding contact with other children so as to avoid contracting colds of them. It is most important that the child be encouraged to eat all kinds of foods straight away. The throat will be sore for approximately ten days and painkillers which will be prescribed must be taken regularly, usually an hour before food, until the child is eating pain free. This is important as children or adults not eating properly are more prone to throat infection after surgery.

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