A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure performed to get rid of one's tonsils. The same procedure can be used to remove the adenoids. For adults, the administration of a local anesthesia to numb the throat is enough. However, children may have to be given general anesthesia, which makes them unconscious during the entire procedure.
What happens after surgery?
A tonsillectomy is usually an outpatient type of surgery. However, in some cases, a patient may be required to spend the night in a hospital. It is normal to have a sore throat that can last for a number of days after the procedure. It may interfere with your voice and make eating or drinking harder for you. Other side effects that you may experience are bad breath and bleeding in very rare circumstances.
Normally, it takes about a week for a child to feel all right after undergoing a tonsillectomy. You can let your child go on with his or her daily activities if he or she feels well after a few days.
Tonsillectomy is mostly performed on children. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most common surgical procedures done in children. However, sometimes, adults can also undergo the procedure when other treatment alternatives fail to get rid of their tonsil problems. Surgery is considered necessary when the tonsils are caused by an infection or when they become so big that they can interfere with your breathing. Your doctor may also recommend the procedure if you have the condition known as sleep apnea, where you experience brief breathing difficulties while sleeping.
About 10 percent of medical cases taken to local health care providers are said to be about a sore throat, which can be as a result of inflamed tonsils. If you have tonsillitis, it is expected to feel some itching in the front part of your neck and have a low-grade fever. If you have a strep infection, your tonsils will have a white coating due to a bacterial infection. Your doctor will most probably advise a tonsillectomy when you experience frequent and severe infection of the tonsils. If in case they are not that often, your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics as treatment.
Abscess on Your Tonsils
You should immediately see your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
- bulging and painful tonsils
- difficulties in opening your mouth
- have a shifted uvula
If you have these conditions, you might be having a peritonsillar abscess, which happens when pus is collected around the tonsils due to a bacterial infection. Although a peritonsillar abscess can be drained and treated with antibiotics, a tonsillectomy may still be recommended by your doctor.
Sometimes, you might notice that your tonsils are getting bigger and that you may have difficulties while sleeping or when you lie down. At times, it may interfere with your sleep, wherein you gasp at intervals at night. This condition is called as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is usually accompanied by loud snoring. However, in most cases, you should not confuse every loud snoring with sleep apnea. Consult your doctor if there is a need for you to undergo a tonsillectomy if you are experiencing sleep apnea.
Why It Is Done
The following are reasons why a tonsillectomy is done:
- When you have recurring tonsillitis or if your tonsils do not heal from an infection.
- When your strep infection is resistant to antibiotics and the always come back before a year ends.
- When your abscesses do not dry out even after draining them.
- When you are prescribed antibiotics for tonsillitis but the odor in your mouth does not improve.
- In case there is a possibility of a tumor in the tonsil that may require a biopsy.
- When you have sleep apnea.
How Well It Works
Most children who had a tonsillectomy have fewer infections than those children who still have their tonsils. In adults, those who have their tonsils removed have a significant record of reduced streptococcal infections. They also experience less sore throats.
The following are other risks that are associated with tonsillectomy:
- difficulty in breathing
- severe bleeding
- aesthetic-related side effects
- death (very rare)
What to Think About
You should have the following considerations in case you are making a decision for your child:
- Is your child missing so much school time because of his or her illness?
- Is your child stressed about his or her condition?
- Are you stressed about your child's illness?
- Does the illness affect your family as a whole?
Whether it is you or your child who is having the surgery, you should make considerations whether to remove the tonsils or not. Think about the surgery if you have a persistent strep throat or tonsillitis.
Remember, research has not linked the immune system with tonsil removal even if some people believe that it may affect the immune system.
Tonsils boost a person's immune system by producing specific types of white blood cells (WBCs). Tonsils are the first to act against bacterial or viral attacks.
For this reason, tonsils are exposed to infections. The reason why children are more prone in developing tonsillitis is that the immunity function of the tonsils occurs mostly before reaching puberty.
Sometimes you need a tonsillectomy, especially if your tonsillitis is as frequent as:
- seven times or more than seven times in 12 months
- more than five times in each year in two consecutive years
- more than three times a year in three consecutive years
When to See Your Doctor
Sore throats are so common that you cannot tell when to see a doctor. The following symptoms should be a reason to call your doctor:
- if you have a difficulty in swallowing or eating
- if you have a fever
- throat pain
- swollen tonsils
- if you experience frequent sore throats
Tonsillectomy: What to Expect
Usually, general anesthesia is given for a tonsillectomy. The surgery does not take long. The procedure only takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Although some of the patients have reported severe bleeding and a sore throat after the procedure, these complications are rare.