A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils – the two glands on either side of the back of the throat.
The tonsils can sometimes become infected (tonsillitis), causing them to become inflamed and swollen. Other symptoms can include a sore throat and pain on swallowing, along with a cough, fever, headache and ear ache. Tonsillitis is very common in both children and adults and usually improves after a few days, similar to having a cold, and symptoms can be managed with rest, plenty of fluids and medication. But for some people, tonsillitis can be very severe and chronic, so surgery may be considered as a permanent solution to the problem.
Tonsillectomy surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic. The surgeon will access your tonsils through your mouth, so no incisions will be made in your skin. As the tonsils are carefully removed, heat is used to seal the wound and to minimise bleeding.
The surgery usually takes around 30 minutes to complete, although it can take a bit longer for the anaesthetic to start wearing off. It’s normal to experience some pain in your throat afterwards, and swallowing can feel sore – however it’s important to keep eating and drinking, as this will ensure you stay hydrated and aid the recovery process. Medication will be provided to help manage the pain as your throat heals, and the aftercare team will advise on the best foods and drinks and anything to avoid, such as alcohol and fizzy drinks, until you are better. Some minor bleeding in the throat is also common, which can last for around 7-10 days afterwards.
Depending on the time of your surgery, you may need to stay in hospital overnight, and it’s generally advised that you have two weeks off work (or school) to recover at home.