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Tonsillectomy (Adult)

This page will provide you with information about adult Tonsillectomy. For further details, you should speak to your consultant.

What is a tonsillectomy?

This procedure involves the removal of the tonsils. Your tonsils make up part of the group of lymphoid tissues (such as the glands in your neck) – these help fight infection that are either swallowed or breathed in. Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become infected   (see figure 1). As a result, you could experience fever, pain and problems swallowing – all of which can make you feel very unwell. 

Figure 1 Tonsillitis
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Other than surgery, are there any other options?

If you have reoccurring tonsillitis, surgery is the only dependable solution. For children, a long course of antibiotics could break a cycle of regular infections. In adults, antibiotics can be less effective, especially when following glandular fever.

What does the operation involve?

Performed under general anaesthetic, the operation usually takes approximately half an hour. Your surgeon will carry out the tonsillectomy via your mouth. They will peel or cut the tonsil away from the layer of muscle beneath it, using heat in order to remove the tonsil and cauterise the area. Alternatively, they may use radio-frequency energy to dissolve   the tonsil. Your surgeon will also prevent any extra bleeding where possible.

What complications can occur?

  • General complications
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Blood clotting

Specific complications

  • Small pieces of the tonsil may remain after surgery
  • Lingual tonsillitis
  • Change of taste
  • The sensation of having something stuck in your throat

What is the recovery time?

You should be able to return home the following day. The pain can persist for up to a fortnight and is usually at its worst when you wake up in the morning. You will need to remain off work  and avoid groups of people for around 14 days. Although regular exercising can help you to resume normal activities as soon as possible after the operation, you should always seek professional advice before doing so.

Summary

If you have ongoing bouts of tonsillitis, surgery is thought to be the only reliable means of stopping it. If you do not treat your tonsillitis, complications can occur. 

 

References: EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

 

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