Tonsillectomy: When Is It Necessary for Children and Adults?

When do you need a tonsillectomy?

The tonsils are a pair of small, oval-shaped glands located at the back of the throat. Tonsils contain white blood cells (WBC) to help fight infections, but at times the tonsils themselves are prone to infections, a condition referred to as tonsillitis, leading to the need for a tonsillectomy in some cases. A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils. A tonsillectomy can also be recommended in other cases such as to treat breathing conditions like sleep apnea and heavy snoring.

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils that can make your tonsils swell and present as throat pain, fever, difficulty in swallowing and swollen glands around the neck. It is mostly seen in children between preschool ages and the mid-teenage years. Usually tonsillitis is treated with antibiotics. Repeated episodes of tonsillitis might warrant a tonsillectomy.

When Do You Need a Tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomies are usually done in children, but can be done even in adults when required. A single episode of tonsillitis does not require surgery. Only when there are repeated episodes (5-7 episodes in two years) that do not respond to medical treatment, surgery is considered.Conditions when a tonsillectomy is deemed necessary include:

  • Enlarged tonsils blocking the airway and causing difficulty in breathing
  • Peritonsillar abscess (collection of pus surrounding the tonsil)
  • Recurrent throat, ear, or sinus infections  in children that requires persistent antibiotic treatment
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the lower jaw for at least 6 months, in spite of antibiotic treatment

Tonsillectomy: Risk vs. Benefit

Having your tonsils removed does not guarantee a complete absence of infection. There may be throat infections due to other causes, but it will be in a milder degree. Without resolution of infection, children will be exposed to recurrent doses of antibiotics, pain, earache and fever.

How to Prepare for a Tonsillectomy Procedure?

Whenever you plan to undergo a surgery, always inform your doctor of the medications you are taking. This is necessary to avoid any unnecessary complications that may arise due to those medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen or aspirin have to be stopped two weeks before surgery as they increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery.

Recovery After Tonsillectomy

Two weeks is the minimum time needed to recover and get back to school or work after a tonsillectomy procedure. While the procedure is usually a standard one without much risk, here are some things you can do to ensure a speedy recovery:Get enough rest and help: Some patients experience pain in the throat, jaws, ear or neck after the surgery. Getting adequate rest in the first few days after surgery is quite essential in the healing process. Make a plan for your recovery at home post-surgery since you may need additional help for a few days.Stay hydrated and follow a careful diet: You have to keep yourself hydrated without hurting your throat by sipping water or eating ice pops. Ideal food choices during early recovery would be warm, clear broth and applesauce. Ice cream, pudding, oatmeal, and other soft foods can be added after a couple of days. Spicy, crunchy or hard foods are better to be avoided for a few weeks after a tonsillectomy.Watch your medication: Pain killers can help you during recovery. But it is very important to take the medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes them. If you develop fever or have any bleeding, contact your doctor immediately. Snoring for the first two weeks is normal and expected. After two weeks, if there is trouble breathing, call your doctor. [av_promobox button='yes' label='Book a Consultation' link='' link_target='' color='blue' custom_bg='#f00' custom_font='#ffffff' size='large' icon_select='no' icon='ue800' font='entypo-fontello']It is advisable to consult a doctor if you have tonsillitis.[/av_promobox]