Tonsillectomy Surgery

How the Procedure Works

A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils, which are glands in the throat that are meant to help fight infection. You or your child might need to have the tonsils removed if these glands are too large, repeatedly become infected, or if they appear to have a severe infection or malignancy (cancer), Sometimes a tonsillectomy procedure is combined with an adenoidectomy, which is the surgical removal of the adenoids, another set of glands in the throat.

A doctor checking the tonsils of his young patient
FatCamera / Getty Images

Tonsillectomies are most commonly performed during childhood, but adults can have the surgery if the tonsils are causing problems, such as obstruction (blockage) of breathing. Having your tonsils removed is not harmful to your overall health because you do not need to have your tonsils to be healthy.

Tonsillectomy Surgical Procedure

In most cases, a tonsillectomy is an outpatient procedure, so you can go home on the same day as the surgery. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and you would be asleep during the surgery, which is usually completed in less than an hour.

During surgery:

  • An instrument is used to hold the mouth open, allowing the surgeon to reach the tonsils and avoid the teeth.
  • The tonsils are then cut away with a scalpel, a laser, or a heated instrument.
  • The bleeding is typically controlled by cauterizing the incision.
  • If necessary, an adenoidectomy is also performed, using the same technique.

After surgery, the anesthesiologist stops the anesthesia, and you will be able to wake up and recover in a surgical recovery area.

Once you are fully awake and your surgical team confirms that you aren't having concerning complications, you will be discharged home with instructions for eating and drinking. Your medical team will make a follow-up appointment for you and provide you with guidance about when to call if you have any post-operative problems.

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2 Sources
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  1. Stanford Children's Health, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Tonsillectomy: procedure details. Updated March 6, 2019.

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