What is a Tonsillectomy?

N. Madison
N. Madison

A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove a person's tonsils, which are two oval-shaped pads that are positioned in the back of the throat. Often, this type of surgery is required because a person's tonsils have become infected repeatedly. Sometimes it is recommended when a person has an infection that doesn't clear up with other forms of treatment provided by a doctor. In some cases, this type of surgery is even used to remove tonsils that are so large that they interfere with normal breathing.

A scalpel may be used to slice away the tonsils.
A scalpel may be used to slice away the tonsils.

Tonsillectomies are most frequently performed on children; however, adults may need them as well. Often, tonsillitis leads to this surgery. Tonsillitis is a type of infection in which the tonsils become swollen and painful; viruses typically cause tonsillitis, but bacterial infections can lead to it as well. For example, mononucleosis is a virus that may lead to tonsillitis, and strep throat is a bacterial infection that can have the same result. A tonsillectomy may also be recommended when cancer of the tonsils is suspected or diagnosed.

A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.

A tonsillectomy is usually performed under general anesthesia, which means the the patient is usually asleep and unable to feel pain. A doctor uses a surgical instrument to hold the patient's mouth open and places a scalpel or burning tool into the person's mouth. This tool is used to slice the tonsils away from the person's throat and remove them from her mouth altogether. In some tonsillectomies, a person's adenoids, which are lymph masses found in the back of the nose, are removed as well.

Soft foods, like cooked rice, are easy to swallow after a tonsillectomy.
Soft foods, like cooked rice, are easy to swallow after a tonsillectomy.

Recovering from a tonsillectomy usually involves pain management. A doctor may prescribe a pain-relieving medication or recommend acetaminophen to relieve the pain; medications like ibuprofen and aspirin are best avoided, as they may increase bleeding. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent and/or eradicate infections. However, it is best to avoid sick people after having a tonsillectomy, as a person may be more prone to contracting illnesses following surgery. Usually, a patient is told to stay well-hydrated after a tonsillectomy and eat foods that are bland and soft; many find relief from eating cold foods, such as ice cream and applesauce.

Patients should stay proper hydrated after a tonsillectomy.
Patients should stay proper hydrated after a tonsillectomy.

Generally, doctors recommend that a person rest and participate in low-impact activities in the first couple of weeks following surgery. This means avoiding things like running, wrestling, and playing contact sports. However, walking and other less physical activities are usually okay.

Applesauce is soft food that can be eaten after a tonsillectomy.
Applesauce is soft food that can be eaten after a tonsillectomy.
Tonsillitis is a type of infection in which the tonsils become swollen and painful.
Tonsillitis is a type of infection in which the tonsils become swollen and painful.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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