Tonsillectomy and Adeno-tonsillectomy for Children

Why might a child need a tonsillectomy or adeno-tonsillectomy operation?

The tonsils and adenoids are lumps of tissue that lie at the back of the throat. They are involved in fighting infection, but they are not essential to health.

When children have a cold or infection, they often get swollen tonsils and adenoids. People who suffer from frequent bouts of infected or inflamed tonsils or adenoids often have them taken out.

The operation to take out the adenoids is called an adenoidectomy. Taking out the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy. Adeno-tonsillectomy means that the adenoids and the tonsils are all removed.

Swollen adenoids can make glue ear (a build up of sticky fluid in the ear) worse. This stops the eardrum letting sound through properly. Sometimes, surgeons recommend that children have their adenoids taken out and have grommets inserted at the same operation.

The procedure may be done as a day-case, or with an overnight stay in hospital. It is done under general anaesthesia. This means your child will be asleep throughout the procedure.

About the tonsillectomy or adeno-tonsillectomy operation

Once the anaesthesia has taken effect, your child’s mouth will be held open so that the surgeon can see into their throat. Specially adapted instruments are used to remove the adenoids and/or tonsils.

The surgeon will stop any bleeding using dissolvable stitches where the tonsils used to be, and pressing a gauze pad on the adenoid area.

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.

After a tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy, your child will have a sore throat and earache which may last for up to two weeks.

Tonsillectomy and adeno-tonsillectomy are commonly performed and generally safe procedures. 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, the nurse will observe your child closely after the operation for signs of bleeding. Your child will probably be advised to lie on their side so that any bleeding from the throat can be detected.

If bleeding does occur, they may be taken back to the operating theatre for further treatment to stop the bleeding. Bleeding can re-occur up to a week after the operation. This is called secondary haemorrhage and can be a result of infection.

There are added risks if your child is also having grommets put in. Ask your surgeon to explain how any risks apply to your child.

Is tonsillectomy and adeno-tonsillectomy surgery available for children on the NHS?

Tonsillectomy and adeno-tonsillectomy surgery for children is 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 or adeno-tonsillectomy for my child 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.

To find out more about having your child's tonsillectomy or adeno-tonsillectomy privately or to get a guide price, simply

Pay for private treatments such as tonsillectomy surgery with a one-off payment at Spire Healthcare

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