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Is Getting Your Tonsils Removed a Major Surgery?

Reviewed on 8/5/2020

What Are the Tonsils?

Removal of the tonsils or tonsilectomy is a minor surgery in children. It's still routine in adults, but recovery is more difficult with increased likelihood of complications.
Removal of the tonsils or tonsilectomy is a minor surgery in children. It's still routine in adults, but recovery is more difficult with increased likelihood of complications.

The tonsils are masses of lymph tissue located in the back of the throat. They are part of the body’s immune system that helps the body fight off infection.

What Are Reasons for Removing the Tonsils?

The main reason the tonsils may need to be removed is tonsillitis (inflammation and infection of the tonsils).

A doctor may decide to remove the tonsils based on the frequency, intensity, and severity of symptoms, such as the following situations:

  • Frequent throat infections – chronic or recurrent tonsillitis
    • At least seven episodes in the past year, or at least five episodes per year for two years, or at least three episodes per year for three years, according to national guidelines
    • Infections result in frequent missed school days (in children)
  • Patient has trouble breathing
  • Patient has trouble swallowing
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Recurrent acute pharyngitis
  • Recurrent acute strep throat infections 
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Tumors or cancer of the tonsils
  • Recurrent/large tonsil stones
  • Bleeding from the tonsils that is unable to be stopped

What Are Symptoms of Tonsillitis?

Symptoms of tonsillitis include:

Is Getting Your Tonsils Removed a Major Surgery?

Most of the time, tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils) is performed in children, and it is a routine and minor procedure. In some cases, children are sent home the same day as the operation and recovery time is one to two weeks. 

In adults, tonsillectomy is still a routine procedure, but patients make take longer to recover and may experience more postoperative pain and bleeding. 

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Reviewed on 8/5/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference



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