Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure for the removal of the tonsils. Tonsils are two-oval-shaped tissue pads present at the back of the throat on either side. Used to treat inflammation and infection of the tonsils earlier, the doctors perform the procedure today for sleep-disordered breathing. It not only treats breathing problems but also other problems arising due to enlarged tonsils. Many doctors prescribe the procedure to treat rare diseases related to the tonsils. Tonsillitis, an infection of the tonsils, can swell your tonsils causing a sore throat. You might need Tonsillectomy if you are experiencing frequent episodes of tonsillitis.
Swollen glands around your neck, fever and trouble in swallowing are the symptoms of tonsillitis. A whitish or yellow coating covers your tonsils and your throat becomes red. Although swelling disappears in many cases, you might need antibiotics or Tonsillectomy for the same. Apart from this, Tonsillectomy also treats problems like sleep apnea and heavy snoring.
Who needs Tonsillectomy?
Although people of any age can experience problems related to tonsils and require Tonsillectomy, the surgery is more common in children. It is a treatment option for those who have tonsillitis or strep throat (a type of tonsillitis). Your doctor will consider Tonsillectomy as an option for you if you experienced tonsillitis more than seven times within a year. The surgery can treat medical conditions like:
- Chronic tonsillitis
- Bleeding of tonsils
- Breathing problem due to swollen tonsils
- Sleep apnea
- Cancer of tonsils
- Frequent, heavy snoring
Tonsils produce white blood cells (disease-fighting cells). They act as the first line of defense against the invading foreign bodies. Because of this, tonsils are more vulnerable to inflammation and infection. Doctors recommend Tonsillectomy to prevent recurring and frequent episodes of tonsillitis. You may also have to undergo Tonsillectomy if the infection doesn’t improve with the treatment of antibiotics or an infection that causes pus behind a tonsil and doesn’t improve after the drainage procedure.
Preparation for the surgery
Inform your doctor about the supplements or medicines that you are taking prior to the surgery. Your doctor may ask you to temporarily stop certain medicines like aspirin two weeks before the surgery. He or she may ask about any reactions or allergies due to any medicine. If you or anyone in your family has bleeding problems like a problem with blood clotting or any problem with the drug used for anesthesia, then you must inform your doctor. Your doctor won’t allow you to eat anything from the night before the surgery. Staying empty stomach will reduce the risk of nausea because of the anesthesia (sleep medicine) at the time of the surgery.
If your child is about to undergo the surgery, there are a few steps that you can follow:
- Talk to your child and make him or her comfortable regarding the surgery. Your child must know what is going to happen.
- Explain the details of the surgery to your child. He or she must know that the surgery will help in the long-term and not make them sick.
- Ensure that your child knows that you will be there at the hospital at the time of the surgery.
- Talk more with your child about going to the hospital to help him/her prepare their mind for the surgery. This is of the utmost importance if your child is too young, maybe two or three years old.
- Make sure that your child knows what the doctor will be doing. He or she must know that it is just the removal of tonsils and won’t change the looks in any way.
What to expect?
Your doctor will perform Tonsillectomy under general anesthesia (you or your child will sleep during the surgery). You or your child won’t experience any pain during the procedure. Your surgeon will use a scalpel (or blade) to remove the tonsils and stop bleeding. He or she might use high-energy heat or sound waves too for the same. Your doctor will allow you to go on the same day of surgery. There’s a rare chance that you will have to spend a night or two at the hospital before going back home.
There are various ways to remove the tonsils.
Cold knife dissection is the most common method that involves the use of a scalpel to remove the tonsils.
Cauterization is another method for performing Tonsillectomy. Your doctor will burn away the tissues in this process.
Using sound waves or ultrasonic vibration is also common for Tonsillectomy procedures.
The surgery takes around half an hour.
There might be some pain and a sore throat after the surgery. However, rest for a few days can help relieve the pain. The warm, clear broth is an ideal choice for food during the recovery period. You may sip water to ensure that you stay hydrated in the recovery period without causing any problem to your throat. Soft food items like pudding and oatmeal will be good to eat after some days of your surgery. Avoid eating spicy and hard food items for a couple of days after Tonsillectomy. Take your medicines regularly and contact your doctor if you sight an emergency at any point of time. Many people join their workplace or school 15 days after the surgery. There are hardly any chances of throat infections after the surgery.
Instructions to follow
- For pain: Pain is quite common after Tonsillectomy. Everyone suffers from a sore throat. However, your doctor will prescribe the right medicines to you to eliminate the pain.
- For eating: The most important thing that you or your child can do after the surgery is to increase the fluid to adequate proportions. It is hard to deal with the situation when you have a sore throat. So, it’s better to stick to a fluid diet. You can eat plain food items that are not difficult to swallow and won’t cause any problem for you. You can have more ice cream as you return to your normal diet.
- For activities: Although there is a minor surgery, you must take enough rest. You or your child must avoid doing hard exercises for a minimum of two weeks. When you can eat & drink easily, don’t require medicines to eliminate the pain and take proper sleep; you will be back to your normal routine.
When to seek emergency care?
You might need to see your doctor if:
- Fever- If you or your child is suffering from fever above 102 F, then there’s a need to call the doctor immediately.
- Breathing problem- As you or your child recovers, noisy breathing or even snoring is common in the first week. However, there is a need for emergency care from the doctor if you or your child are experiencing breathing problems.
- Bleeding- The presence of small specks of dark blood is normal in the nose or in the saliva. However, you must immediately see your doctor for inspection and evaluation if you spot bright red blood. There may arise the need for surgery to stop the bleeding.
- Dehydration- If you or your child are experiencing signs of dehydration like thirst, dizziness, reduced urination, headache, lightheadedness or weakness, you must contact your doctor immediately.
Risks associated with tonsillectomy
There are certain risks associated with the Tonsillectomy procedure.
- Bleeding- There might be severe bleeding during the surgery in some cases that requires longer hospitalization and additional treatment. Also, if the scab dislodges from the wound soon, then there might be bleeding at the time of healing too.
- Swelling- You may experience swelling of the tongue and soft palate that may cause breathing problems.
- Infection- Although it’s rare, surgery may cause infection and there might be a need for treatment.
- Reactions to anesthesia- Anesthesia is the sleep medicine that may cause short-term problems like vomiting or headache.