Your child may have been referred to an ear, nose, and throat surgeon (ENT) to have the tonsils and adenoids removed. This surgery is called a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. Often the tonsils and adenoids are removed at the same time. But sometimes only one or the other is removed. Your child’s ENT will discuss this with you.
The tonsils are tissue located on either side of the back of the throat. The adenoids are located behind the nose and at the top (roof) of the mouth. Both the tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system, the part of the body that fights infection and disease.
Healthcare providers are not in complete agreement about when a child should have a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy. But here are some guidelines that are followed.
A tonsillectomy may be recommended if your child has throat infections that keep coming back. A throat infection means your child has a sore throat with fever. Or he or she also has swollen neck glands or drainage from the tonsils. Or your child also has a positive strep test. Your child has any of the following:
A tonsillectomy may also be recommended if your child has recurrent throat infections and any of these:
A tonsillectomy may also be recommended if your child has:
Adenoidectomy is recommended if your child has a lot of trouble breathing through the nose. It may also be recommended if your child has:
All surgeries have risks including bleeding, infection, and complications from general anesthesia. The risks of tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are:
After surgery, your child may have nausea, vomiting, pain, dehydration, ear pain, or throat or lung problems.
Your child’s healthcare provider or ENT may want to do some tests before surgery. If your child has problems while sleeping, a sleep study may be done.
The ENT will explain the surgery and answer any questions. Make sure you talk with your child’s ENT about:
And if your child gets sick before surgery, call his or her ENT. Surgery may need to be rescheduled.
Your child will probably have the surgery as an outpatient. That means that he or she will go home the same day as the surgery. The surgery usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes. Your child will get medicine to sleep during the surgery (general anesthesia). Some children may need to stay overnight. This may include children who:
In general, the surgery will go as follows:
Your child’s throat will be very painful for the first 2 days. Pain may last up to 2 weeks.
Instructions for caring for your child at home may include:
Make sure you take your child to all follow-up appointments with the ENT. And call the ENT if your child is not getting better, or if you have any questions or concerns.