What is a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy – or the removal of the tonsils and often the adenoids as well – is one of the most common childhood surgeries performed. In fact, more than half a million tonsillectomies are performed each year on children in the United States, making it the second most common surgery among young children just behind procedures to place tubes in the ears to relieve recurrent ear infections.

When is a tonsillectomy recommended?

Due to a growing understanding of the role tonsils and adenoids play in filtering out bacteria and helping to fight infection, today a tonsillectomy isn’t always the first course of treatment for infections. Thanks to recent guidelines by the American Academy of Otolaryngology, doctors and parents now have more information about when tonsillectomy may be warranted in young patients. The guidelines suggest when doctors should consider taking out the tonsils.

What is the procedure for a tonsillectomy?

The patient is placed under general anesthesia, meaning he or she is unaware as the procedure is being performed. The surgeon then removes the tonsils using one of several surgical techniques: cold knife dissection (removal with a scalpel); cauterization (high-energy heat that destroys tissue and stops bleeding); or ultrasonic vibration (high-energy sound waves that destroy tissue and stop bleeding). The procedure typically takes about 30 minutes.

What are the results of a tonsillectomy?

After the procedure, patients usually experience pain in throat, and possibly also in the ears, jaw or neck. Pain medications should be taken as prescribed. Patients are also asked not to participate in strenuous activities for the first two weeks after surgery. Quickly, though, the patient is able to return to normal activities, now with fewer throat infections or related problems.


New Guidelines on When Kids Need Tonsillectomies. Web. 3 Jan. 2011.