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  You are at: Procedure info > Ear, nose, throat > Tonsillectomy

Tonsil removal (tonsillectomy)
















Inflamed tonsils cause tonsillitis

The tonsils are glands that help to fight off infections. They are found on the sides of the throat, near the uvula (the pink bit that dangles at the back of the throat). The role of the tonsils becomes less important with increasing age.



Why would the tonsils need removing?

The usual reason is for recurrent tonsillitis. Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become infected, causing pain, fever and difficulty swallowing. Whilst this usually resolves in about a week, frequent recurrent tonsillitis can be miserable for a child and parents. Occasionally, tonsillitis can lead to an abscess, which may need an operation and antibiotics to resolve. A tonsillectomy will prevent these problems. It should be borne in mind that sore throats can still happen, though, such as with a common cold - but tonsillitis will not recur.


How is a tonsillectomy performed?

The operation is performed under general anaesthesia. The tonsil is peeled or burnt away, taking about half an hour to perform. The child can usually go home on the same or following day, once they are eating normal food.


What are the risks of tonsillectomy?

  • Pain - it is normal to have a sore throat after the operation, and painkillers will be given.

  • Bleeding - this may occur at the time of operation or in the two weeks following surgery. Infection can cause bleeding, and may resolve with antibiotics. If the bleeding is heavy, a further operation may be needed.

  • Tonsil remnants - occasionally small pieces of tonsil may remain after the surgery, which can lead to further tonsillitis.



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Any procedure involving incision can result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer





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