When children have a cold or infection, they often get swollen tonsils and adenoids, which are lumps of tissue at the back of your throat.
Children who suffer from frequent bouts of infected or inflamed tonsils or adenoids often have them taken out. The operation to remove the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy, while taking out the adenoids is an adenoidectomy. An adenotonsillectomy removes both the adenoids and the tonsils.
Tonsils and adenoids are involved in fighting infection, but are not essential to your child's health. Children who suffer from persistent infected or inflamed tonsils or adenoids often have them taken out.
Swollen adenoids can worsen glue ear (a build up of sticky fluid in the ear, which stops the eardrum letting sound through properly).
Sometimes, surgeons may recommend that children have their adenoids taken out and have grommets (tiny plastic tubes shaped like cotton reels, which help people with glue ear to hear better) inserted at the same time. During your initial consultation with us, your surgeon will discuss with you and recommend the best type of treatment for your child.
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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We will invite you to bring your child for a pre-admission visit. You will meet some of the staff who will be looking after your child, and the visit will help them to feel more familiar with the hospital when they return for their actual admission.
Your consultant will give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your child's procedure. Once you’ve booked a tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy, your child shouldn’t eat or drink anything from midnight on the day of the operation.
If your child has a cold or infection in the week before the operation, please phone the hospital. The operation may need to be postponed until your child has fully recovered.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry for both parents and children. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you and your child, holding their hand, every step of the way.
The operation is done under general anaesthesia, which means your child will be asleep throughout the procedure. It usually takes about half an hour. You will be able to accompany your child to the operating theatre and stay with them until they are asleep.
The staff who will look after your child in the operating theatre and recovery room have received additional training in the care of children.
Once the anaesthesia has taken effect, your child’s mouth will be held open so 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 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 normal arrangements are in place for consent, audit and clinical governance.
Your child may be treated as a day-case, or may need to stay overnight in hospital. Familiar faces are crucial in ensuring children feel safe and comfortable, and we appreciate how worrying it can be for parents to be separated from their child, so we're always pleased to arrange for you to stay overnight in your child's room.
After the procedure, your child will be taken from the operating theatre to a recovery room, where he or she will come round from the anaesthesia under close supervision.
Specific complications of a tonsillectomy are uncommon but can include bleeding that starts soon after the operation. A nurse will observe your child closely after the procedure 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.
Your child will be cared for by a registered sick children's nurse or a registered nurse with a child branch certificate. Your friends and family will be able to visit pretty much anytime you want – we have flexible visiting hours.
Your consultant will provide you with advice about pain relief before your child is discharged. You can usually give your child paracetamol syrup or ibuprofen syrup, being sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. Giving them a dose half an hour before eating may make eating less uncomfortable.
After a tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy, your child will have a sore throat and earache which may last for up to two weeks.
Your child should stay at home for seven to 14 days after the operation and avoid people with colds, coughs or other infections. Complete recovery can take up to two weeks.
Even after your child has left hospital, we’re still looking after him or her every step of the way. After a tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy, we will provide you with all the appropriate medication, advice and follow-up support for your child.
Your consultant will want to see your child after the treatment to see how he or she is doing. An appointment will be made before you leave the hospital to come back in for a check-up.
On rare occasions, complications following a tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy can occur. If your child experiences any of these symptoms - persistent or increasing bleeding, inability to drink normally, which can lead to dehydration and / or a high temperature or fever call us straight away. Bleeding can re-occur up to a week after the operation. This is called secondary haemorrhage and can be a result of infection.
We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.