What is a tonsillectomy?
The tonsils are lumps of tissue that lie at the back of the throat. They are involved in fighting infection but they aren’t essential to health.
People who suffer from frequent bouts of infected or inflamed tonsils (tonsillitis), or have breathing problems caused by swollen tonsils, sometimes have them taken out.
An operation to remove the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy. The operation is performed under general anaesthesia. This means that you will be asleep throughout the procedure and will feel no pain.
The operation may be performed as a day case, but sometime requires an overnight stay in hospital.
About the tonsillectomy operation for adults
Once the anaesthesia has taken effect, your mouth is held open so that the surgeon can see into your throat. The tonsils are usually removed with special scissors. Dissolvable stitches are used to close the wound and stop the bleeding.
The operation usually lasts about 30 minutes.
Alternatively, diathermy may be used. Diathermy means using heated instruments to remove the tissue and seal the wounds. Initially, there had been some question over the safety of diathermy, because there is evidence that it increases the risk of bleeding after the operation. However, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidance in 2005 that said the technique was safe to use, provided that normal arrangements are in place for consent, audit and clinical governance.
Afterwards, you will have a very sore throat and possibly an earache. These symptoms may last up to two weeks. You may have bad breath for a few days.
Tonsillectomy is a commonly performed and generally safe operation. For most people, the benefits in terms of improved symptoms are greater than the disadvantages. However, all surgery carries an element of risk.
Specific complications of tonsillectomy are uncommon but can include bleeding that starts soon after the operation. For this reason, your nurse will observe you closely after the operation for signs of bleeding. You will probably be advised to lie on your side so that any bleeding from the throat can be detected. Your nurse will also look out for you swallowing more than usual, as this can be a sign of bleeding in the throat. If bleeding does occur you may be taken back to the operating theatre and given another general anaesthetic so that the surgeon can stop the bleeding.
Bleeding can occur up to a week after the operation. This is called secondary haemorrhage and can be a result of infection.
The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Ask your surgeon to explain how any risks apply to you.
Is tonsillectomy surgery for adults available on the NHS?
Tonsillectomies for adults are currently being restricted by the NHS in some areas of the UK and waiting lists are becoming significantly longer. For these reasons many people opt for private tonsillectomy surgery.
Why should I consider having a tonsillectomy at a Spire hospital?
Whether you have medical insurance or are paying for your treatment yourself, with Spire Healthcare you will be seen quickly by the consultant-grade surgeon of your choice at a time that suits you. You will be treated in a premium private hospital with some of the UK's highest standards of cleanliness and infection control.
Many of our hospitals also offer tonsillectomy for children, further information on tonsillectomy for children can be found here.
To find out more about having your tonsillectomy privately or to get a guide price, simply