Your tonsils are lumps of tissue at the back of your throat. Sometimes they get enlarged and infected - called tonsillitis - resulting in a sore throat. The operation to remove the tonsils, called a tonsillectomy, is often performed because of frequent bouts of tonsillitis.
Your tonsils are involved in fighting infection but aren’t essential to health. If you have frequent - typically more than four times a year - sore throats due to infected tonsils, your doctor might suggest having them removed.
Sometimes people have breathing problems because of swollen tonsils and need them removed. Rarely, a tonsillectomy might be performed because of cancer.
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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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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.
During a tonsillectomy, your mouth is held open so the surgeon can see into your throat. The surgeon usually removes the tonsils with special scissors and uses dissolvable stitches to close the wound and stop the bleeding.
The operation usually lasts about 30 minutes and is performed under general anaesthetic. This means you'll be asleep throughout the procedure and will not feel pain.
In some cases, diathermy may be used. Diathermy means using heated instruments to remove the tissue and seal the wounds.
A tonsillectomy is usually performed as a day case, but you may need to stay overnight in hospital. After the procedure, you will be taken from the operating theatre to a recovery room, where you will come round from the anaesthesia under close supervision.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.
To start with, your throat, ears or both will be sore and your jaw may feel stiff. You may require painkillers, which can usually be taken every four to six hours. Please discuss any discomfort you have with your doctors or nurses.
Sometimes patients can experience bleeding that starts soon after the operation. This is called secondary haemorrhage and can be a result of infection. While you're with us, your nurse will watch you closely after the operation for any signs of this. You'll 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.
You'll have a very sore throat and possibly an earache. These symptoms may last for up to two weeks. You may have bad breath for a few days, which should go away quickly.
It will probably be difficult to eat and drink right after having a tonsillectomy as it might hurt to swallow. You should start with soft foods - such as porridge and jelly - and drink often. Try to start eating solid foods as quickly as you can because it will help your throat heal faster.
If you have a sore throat or earache, you should take the painkillers that will be prescribed at the hospital. Make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging. Taking a dose half an hour before meals may help to make eating more comfortable. You may also be prescribed a course of antibiotics. Please take these as recommended, remembering to complete the whole course, even if you feel completely well. You should stay at home for seven to 14 days after the operation. Where possible, avoid contact with people who have colds, coughs or other infections. You should also avoid strenuous activities during this time. Complete recovery can take two weeks.
Once you’re ready to be discharged from hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way.
Typically your consultant will want to see you after your treatment to see how you’re doing; a date for follow-up appointment will be given to you before you leave the hospital.
Tonsillectomy is a very common procedure and specific complications are uncommon.
Sometimes bleeding can occur up to a week after the operation. If you develop any of the following symptoms - persistent or and increase bleeding, the inability to drink normally which can lead to dehydration and / or a high temperature - please call us straight away.
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.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
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.