Tonsil surgery, also known as tonsillectomy, is a surgical procedure that results in the permanent removal of the tonsils. Primarily recommended for children, it is still sometimes used with adults in the case of frequent tonsil infections, sleep apnea and other issues. Here, we’re going to look at why an ear, nose and throat (ENT) might recommend tonsil surgery and what you can expect from it.

Signs you need tonsil surgery

Emergency tonsil surgery is most often necessary in the case of peritonsillar abscess. This is a kind of tonsil infection (or tonsillitis) that is particularly severe, leading to fever, severe pain and noticeably larger tonsils. However, not all cases are as urgent. Tonsil surgery may also be recommended if you have a sore throat caused by tonsil infection on a regular basis. Your tonsils may simply be more susceptible to infection and removing them can remove the long-term issue. Oversized tonsils can also lead to sleep apnea, which can interrupt your sleep, make you feel tired all the time and put you at greater risk of issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. These are the most common reasons an ENT might recommend tonsil surgery.

Preparing for your surgery

If you have been scheduled for tonsil surgery, your ear, nose and throat specialist will provide a range of instructions to help you prepare. For two weeks, you should avoid anti-inflammatory medicines, including aspirin and ibuprofen. From the midnight before the surgery, you will have to avoid eating or drinking anything, as well. Beyond that, if you experience any illnesses like a cold or flu, you have to tell the ENT as it may impede the surgery.

What it involves

Tonsil surgery is usually relatively simple, allowing you to go home shortly after it’s finished. Patients are most often put under general anesthetic, rendering them unconscious. A breathing tube is passed through the airway in the nose and the jaw is held open using an instrument. Then the tonsils are cut away using a heated scalpel or laser, known as cauterization. Once the bleeding is stopped, you are woken up by stopping the anesthesia until the breathing tube can be removed.

Aftercare and recovery

Planning for recovery can make it go much smoother. A full recovery can take around a week, so booking that time off of school or work is recommended. You will also need to arrange someone to take you home after surgery and to help with basic needs around the home. Your throat will feel sore and agitated, especially for 48 hours, so prepare soft and cool foods and avoid dairy that can leave an irritated residue during that time. If the pain gets worse before it gets better, talk to your ENT and they can prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or narcotics and may recommend using a humidifier to prevent cold, dry air from further irritating your throat.

If you have any other questions or concerns around tonsil surgery, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your ear, nose and throat specialist. They will want to ensure you’re as confident and comfortable with any course of treatment as possible.