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A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the tonsils. The tonsils are a pair of lymph node-like small masses located at the back of the throat. They are part of the body's immune system and help fight infection. However, they can also become infected, which can lead to tonsillitis.1
Tonsillitis is a common childhood illness, but it can occur at any age. Symptoms include enlarged, swollen tonsils, painful sore throats, fevers, and difficulty swallowing.
A doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy if someone has chronic tonsillitis that does not respond to treatment.
Doctors used to perform tonsillectomies routinely to treat chronic tonsillitis. The frequency of tonsillectomies has declined more recently because experts are concerned they cause more problems than they solve.
In a large study of more than 1 million people, researchers looked at the long-term effects of having a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, or both as a child.
An adenoidectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the adenoids, which are also patches of tissue in the back of the throat that protect the body from germs.
The study found that people who had these surgeries were significantly more likely to experience upper respiratory tract infections later in life. The surgeries also didn’t prevent people from getting colds, sore throats, or throat infections.2
Therefore, the decision to have a tonsillectomy is based on a combination of factors, including:
Before the tonsillectomy, you will consult a doctor who specializes in adult or pediatric otolaryngology.
They may perform a physical exam, take a medical history, and discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure. You'll also find out what to expect during recovery and have the opportunity to ask any questions.
A doctor or nurse will provide clear instructions on preparing for surgery. Follow their directions carefully to reduce the likelihood of complications.
Preparation for surgery usually includes:
For most people, a tonsillectomy is an outpatient procedure. Therefore, you probably won't need to prepare to stay overnight in the hospital or surgery center.
The tonsillectomy procedure is as follows:4
Once you're completely awake, and a doctor confirms you can breathe and swallow properly, you'll be discharged with a detailed care plan. If you have difficulty breathing or have any other issues, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight for observation.
A tonsillectomy is a quick and straightforward procedure that typically takes less than 30 minutes.
Expect to spend at least half a day in the hospital, as both admission and recovery require several hours.
Recovery from removal of the tonsils is different for everyone. Most children feel fine after a few days, while adults may take a couple of weeks to recover completely. This is because the tonsils are larger, and therefore, surgical removal is more difficult.
The following tips will help wounds heal naturally and reduce risks of complications:
Although everyone recovers at a different rate, here is a generalized recovery timeline:
Your throat will be sore following a tonsillectomy. So, choosing soft foods and cold drinks and avoiding spicy foods may be best during recovery. You can gradually add solid foods back into your diet as your pain improves.
Good foods to eat after surgery include:
Maintain adequate hydration following surgery, particularly during the first couple of days. Hydration helps keep skin moisturized, which helps wounds heal and reduces pain.
Opting for chilled drinks like apple juice or ice water or warm drinks may help with pain and have a soothing effect.
However, avoid hot liquids, as they can worsen the pain. Because their heat causes blood vessels to widen, hot drinks can also cause bleeding.
As with any surgery, tonsillectomy carries certain risks, including:
The cost of a tonsillectomy will depend on several factors, including:
Tonsillectomies are typically straightforward and quick procedures with a relatively low cost. They cost around $2,500 but can range from $1,000 to $4,500.6
A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the tonsils. It's usually performed as an outpatient surgery and takes around 30 minutes. Doctors may recommend it if someone has recurrent tonsillitis or breathing problems.
Recovery from the operation can take up to 2 weeks, during which you may experience pain and swelling. Eating soft foods and staying hydrated will help with recovery.
Tonsillectomies carry certain risks, but they are usually minor. The cost of the procedure will depend on insurance coverage and other factors.