Tonsillectomy (child)

This page will give you information about a tonsillectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is an operation to remove the tonsils, part of a group of lymphoid tissues (like the glands in your neck) that help to fight off infection from germs that are breathed in or swallowed.

Tonsillitis happens if the tonsils become infected (see figure 1). This causes pain, fever and difficulty swallowing and can make your child feel unwell.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back. In children, a long course of antibiotics may break a cycle of frequent infections or the tonsillitis may simply stop after a few years.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about 30 minutes.

Your surgeon will perform the tonsillectomy through your child’s mouth. They will cut or peel the tonsil away from the layer of muscle underneath it, use heat to remove the tonsil and cauterise the area, or use radio-frequency energy to dissolve the tonsil. Your surgeon will stop any extra bleeding.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)

Specific complications

  • Small pieces of the tonsil may be left behind
  • Lingual tonsillitis

How soon will my child recover?

Your child should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

The pain can last for up to two weeks and tends to be worse first thing in the morning.

Your child will need to stay off school and away from groups of people for two weeks. This is to help prevent throat infections while your child’s throat is still healing.

Summary

If left untreated, tonsillitis can cause complications. Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back.

Acknowledgements

Author: Miss Ruth Capper MD FRCS (ORL-HNS)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com

The operation and treatment information on this website is published under license by New Victoria Hospital from EIDO Healthcare UK and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.


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