Parenting

Everything You Need to Know About Tonsillectomy

Everything You Need to Know About Tonsillectomy

What is a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is a type of surgical procedure that is purposely aimed at removing the tonsils, which are the two tiny glands found at the back part of a person’s throat. Although tonsils contain white blood cells to assist in fighting infections, they can also get infected at times.

Tonsillitis is an infection that affects the tonsils leading to swelling and a sore throat. A tonsillectomy may be recommended if your tonsils regularly suffer from tonsillitis. When the glands surrounding your neck become swollen or when you experience fever or swallowing issues, you may be having symptoms of tonsillitis. Your physician may also discover that you have a red throat and a whitish or yellowish covering on your tonsils. At times, your glands can recover from the swelling on their own, while at other times, you may need an antibiotic medication or a tonsillectomy. A tonsillectomy may also improve breathing issues such as sleep apnea and loud snoring.

Who are the candidates for a tonsillectomy?

Many children tend to experience tonsillitis, which is why children often need a tonsillectomy than adults. However, any person regardless of age may have tonsil issues and may need surgery to treat the condition.

A single occurrence of tonsillitis is not enough to necessitate a tonsillectomy. A tonsillectomy is normally recommended for people who frequently suffer from tonsillitis or strep throat. Consult your doctor on whether you should undergo a tonsillectomy.

A tonsillectomy can be a remedy for other medical issues such as: 

  • Breathing issues associated with swollen tonsils
  • Regular and heavy snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Bleeding tonsils
  • Difficulty in swallowing foods that cannot be easily chewed such as meat

Reasons for the Removal of Tonsils

Some children frequently suffer from bacterial or viral infections in their tonsils, making them swollen and severely painful. The enlarged tonsils may partially block these children’s air passages, making them experience breathing difficulties. Some physicians also argue that adenoids and enlarged tonsils may contribute to the development of glue ear. Glue ear is a condition, which occurs as a result of the blockage in the middle year by a sticky discharge causing hearing problems. 

Is tonsillectomy the only option?

Having your child’s tonsils removed is likely a good idea if you notice that he or she is experiencing difficulties while breathing or has glue ear. Nevertheless, you can wait to see if the tonsils will recover on their own as the child grows older and if the tonsils are just infected and not associated with severe issues.

Tonsillectomy Preparation

Avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications two weeks prior to the surgical operation. Anti-inflammatory medications make you more vulnerable to bleeding after undergoing the operation. Drugs that you should avoid include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin.

Bring to your doctor’s attention any drugs, vitamins, or herbs that you are taking. Avoid eating or drinking anything past midnight before the scheduled day of your tonsillectomy. This restriction will minimize the chances of having nausea due to the anesthetic medication.

Come up with an "at-home" recovery plan. Arrange for someone who will drive you home and assist you for a few days after the surgery. It is recommended that you skip attending school or work and remain at home for approximately one week. 

Tonsillectomy Procedure

The tonsils can be removed by various methods. The most common method is called as the cold knife dissection. In this method, the surgeon uses a scalpel to remove the tonsils. The tonsils can also be removed by cauterization, another famous tonsillectomy method, in which the tonsils are removed through burning. Some tonsillectomy procedures use ultrasonic vibration to remove the tonsils. A tonsillectomy procedure normally takes approximately 30 minutes.

All tonsillectomies use a general anesthetic to make you sleep throughout the procedure. After the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery room. When you wake up, your blood pressure and heartbeat will be monitored and if they are normal, you may be discharged from hospital the same day. 

Recovery

You may experience pain in your neck, ears, or jaws, and may also develop a sore throat while recovering from a tonsillectomy. Get plenty of rest, particularly in the initial 2 to 3 days after the surgical operation. Avoid hurting your throat and remain hydrated by sipping water or eating ice pops.

During the early stages of recovery, consume foods such as applesauce and clear warm broth. Several days after the operation, you can introduce soft foods like oatmeal, pudding, and ice cream to your diet. Avoid eating spicy, crunchy, or hard foods for several days after the operation.  

You can use pain medications to relieve your pain as you recover. Strictly follow your doctor’s prescription while taking any medication. Consult your doctor if you have any bleeding or fever following a tonsillectomy. It is normal to snore the initial weeks after a tonsillectomy. However, you should contact your physician if you experience breathing difficulties after the initial two weeks.

You may be ready to resume work or school within two weeks after the surgery. In the future, you are most likely going to have reduced throat infections after having a tonsillectomy. 

Tonsillectomy Facts

1. Tonsillectomy doesn’t increase the risk of infections.

Tonsils assist in fighting infections by protecting your throat against harmful microorganisms. However, tonsils do not have much influence on your health. They can lead to more problems than benefits if they are regularly infected or swollen and your physician may advise that they be removed.

The removal of tonsils will not increase your risk of infection since other body tissues will fight against health problems.

2. Many people live without tonsils.

Around 530,000 children undergo tonsillectomies annually, making the surgical operation the second most prominent children’s outpatient operation in the US. However, tonsillectomy cases have been declining year after year. 

3. The reasons for tonsillectomy in adults and children are distinct.

Children and adults with swollen tonsils or experiencing regular tonsil infections may be asked by their doctors to have their tonsils removed. In the past, the main reason for tonsillectomy in children was because of tonsillitis.

Nowadays, the procedure is mainly done to remove enlarged tonsils that cause breathing difficulties in children while they are sleeping. Only a small fraction of tonsillectomy procedures are performed to treat recurrent infections. Adults who undergo a tonsillectomy often do so to treat chronic tonsillitis.

4. Tonsillectomy can make your life better.

Children suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as a result of swollen tonsils usually experience daytime sleepiness, poor performance at school, bed-wetting, and stagnant growth among other undesirable effects. Adults suffering from OSA may also experience daytime sleepiness. Regardless of what drives an individual to have a tonsillectomy, the procedure can generally make a person’s life more pleasant. 

5. Tonsils can sometimes grow back.

Less than 1 percent of tonsil tissues removed during partial tonsillectomy may grow back, especially in children who are 5 years old and below.

6. Scabs shouldn’t be picked.

After the tonsils are removed, their site will be covered by thick and whitish scabs, which may lead to foul breath. Heavy bleeding may occur if these scabs are picked. Therefore, it is advisable not to disturb them and instead wait for them to fall off 10 to 14 days after a tonsillectomy.

7. You aren’t limited to certain foods.

Generally, you are not restricted to eat certain food types after a tonsillectomy. In fact, you will feel better if you start chewing as soon as possible. Your doctor may even ask you to chew gum to assist in reducing pain in your ears, jaws, or throat after the procedure. Nevertheless, some physicians may recommend a soft diet for their patients for some days after the surgical operation. 

8. Voice changes may occur.

Your child’s voice may sound more nasal than usual after a tonsillectomy. The alteration is a result of the additional space left at the back part of the throat after the tonsils are removed. The voice will return to normal after the throat adapts to the hollow tonsil site. Consult a doctor if your child's voice does not improve or return to normal after recovering from the operation.

Key Takeaways

  • Some children frequently suffer from bacterial or viral infections in their tonsils, making them swollen and severely painful.
  • A tonsillectomy may improve breathing issues such as sleep apnea and loud snoring.
  • Many children tend to experience tonsillitis, which is why children often need a tonsillectomy than adults.