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What is a Tonsillectomy?

Tonsils are two small glands located in the back of the throat which stock white blood cells to help fight infection. Sometimes the tonsils themselves become infected and they have to be removed by a surgical procedure. This procedure is called Tonsillectomy.

When the tonsils become infected they swell and give you a sore throat. This infection is called Tonsillitis. Other symptoms of tonsillitis include fever, trouble swallowing, and swollen glands around your neck. The throat is red and the tonsils are covered in a whitish or yellow coating and you may need antibiotics. If there are frequent episodes of tonsillitis this might become a reason for tonsillectomy.

A tonsillectomy can also be a treatment for breathing problems, like heavy snoring and sleep apnea.

Who needs a Tonsillectomy?

People of any age can experience trouble with their tonsils and require surgery, however Tonsillitis is more common in children.

If you’ve had at least seven cases of tonsillitis or strep throat in the last year (or five cases or more over each of the last two years), you might require a tonsillectomy.

Tonsillectomy can also treat other medical problems, including:

  • breathing problems related to swollen tonsils
  • frequent and loud snoring
  • periods in which you stop breathing during sleep, or sleep apnea
  • bleeding of the tonsils
  • cancer of the tonsils

Preparing for a Tonsillectomy

 You will need to stop taking anti-inflammatory medicines two weeks before your surgery. Anti-inflammatory medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Drugs of this kind can increase your risk of bleeding during and after your surgery. Please share information about all medications, including herbs, or vitamins you’re taking.

You should not eat anything after midnight before your tonsillectomy. This means you should fast after midnight. An empty stomach reduces the risk of vomiting and nausea from the anaesthesia medicines.

You might need to stay at home for about a week following surgery.

Tonsillectomy procedure

Tonsillectomies usually take about a half hour. The procedures are done under general anaesthesia and you will be asleep and will not feel any pain. Medical staff will look after you when you wake up. Most of the time, you can go back home on the same day after surgery.

There are several different ways to remove tonsils. One common method is called “cold knife (steel) dissection” where tonsils are removed with a scalpel.

Another common method for tonsillectomy involves burning away the tissues through a process called cauterization. Ultrasonic vibration (using sound waves) is also used in some tonsillectomy procedures.

Risks during a Tonsillectomy

Some risks with this procedure include:

  • swelling
  • infection
  • bleeding
  • reaction to anesthetics

Tonsillectomy recovery

You may experience some pain as you recover from the surgery. You might have a sore throat and feel pain in your jaw, ears, or neck. You will need plenty of rest, especially in the first two to three days after surgery.

Sip water to stay hydrated without hurting your throat. Warm, clear fluids like vegetable soups are ideal food choices during early recovery. You can add ice cream, pudding, oatmeal, and other soft foods after a couple days. Try not to eat anything hard, crunchy, or spicy for several days after a tonsillectomy.

Pain medication can help you feel better during recovery. Contact your doctor if you experience bleeding or get a fever after a tonsillectomy. Snoring for the first two weeks after the procedure is normal and expected.

It is likely to take two weeks after a tonsillectomy to go back to school or your work. After a tonsillectomy you will have fewer throat infections in the future.

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