Tonsil removal (patient 12 and over)

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What is Tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy refers to the removal of your tonsils. Tonsils are oval-shaped structures of lymphoid tissue at the back of your throat. You have one tonsil on each side. Tonsils are part of the body’s immune system, and they help stop bacteria and viruses from entering the body through the mouth or the nose.

Tonsils can become enlarged, and this can cause many complications like breathing problems or difficulty swallowing. Enlarged tonsils can happen due to multiple reasons. This can be due to acute inflammation or a tumor.

Why would I get a Tonsillectomy?

The most common indications for tonsillectomy are if:

  • You have a growing tumor in one or both tonsils, causing them to enlarge and obstruct the airway. This can disrupt breathing during sleep (also known as obstructive sleep apnea). It also can cause frequent snoring. 
  • You have recurrent throat infections that keep coming back and cause your tonsils to be inflamed (tonsilitis). The infection manifests as swollen tonsils that cause difficulty breathing or swallowing. 

Recurrent tonsillitis is be defined as: 

  • If you had at least seven episodes in the last year
  • If you had at least five episodes a year in the past two years
  • If you had at least three episodes a year in the past three years

What happens during Tonsillectomy?

There are different ways by which the tonsils can be removed.  Common techniques include:

  • Electrocautery: Your surgeon can perform the surgery using a specialized surgical tool that uses heat to destroy the tissue or remove it and stop any bleeding. 
  • Cold knife (steel) dissection: Your surgeon may also directly cut out the tonsils using a scalpel. 

Other techniques involve the use of radiofrequency ablation, carbon dioxide laser, and/or a microdebrider. You should discuss these details with your doctor before the procedure.

What to expect after Tonsillectomy?

There are few problems that can arise following the procedure. They include:

  • Feeling of something stuck in the throat.
  • Nausea and vomiting for the first few days few days
  • Sleep disturbances or anxiety
  • Swelling of the throat or the tongue
  • Mild fever for few days
  • Throat pain for one to two weeks

Watch for the complications that require prompt medical care like bleeding, fever, dehydration, and breathing problems.


In general, tonsillectomy can help in treating recurring tonsil infections and reduce their severity. Tonsillectomies to treat viral tonsillitis have a smaller benefit than those used to treat recurring bacterial tonsilitis. Tonsillectomies to treat obstructive sleep apnea and other conditions can improve outcomes when different treatment strategies have not been beneficial. 

An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor is recommended to follow up with.


Mayo Clinic: Tonsillectomy

Cleveland Clinic:Tonsillectomy

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