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What are Tonsils and Adenoids?


Tonsils and adenoids are collections of lymphoid tissue found in the throat.  The tonsils are located on each side of the throat in the soft palate.   The adenoids are located behind the nose and above the soft palate and generally cannot be seen without the aid of special mirrors to examine these areas.  Both tonsils and adenoids function to filter bacteria and viruses entering through the nose or throat.


What are tonsillitis and pharyngitis?


Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. Pharyngitis is an infection of the back of the throat (known as the pharynx).  These two infections may often occur at the same time.  Symptoms of tonsillitis of pharyngitis are fever (usually greater than 101º F or 38º C), chills, sore throat and pain on swallowing.


Why Remove Tonsils and Adenoids


There are two basic reasons that otolaryngologists recommend tonsil and adenoid surgery (T&A). These are infection and obstruction. The infectious indications should include chronicity or recurrence as support of these subcategories. The infections may include the ears, nose, nasopharynx, adenoids, sinuses, pharynx, tonsils, peritonsillar tissues and/or the cervical lymph nodes. Obstructions may involve the nasal or oral airways as well as swallowing difficulties.


What are the symptoms associated with enlarged tonsils and adenoids?


Children with enlarged adenoids may complain of difficulty breathing through the nose or be chronic "mouth breathers".   Noisy breathing with "snoring" quality may be present in awake or sleeping children.  Pauses in breathing while sleeping are also seen with enlarged tonsils and adenoids and this is called apnea.  Sleep apnea may be a serious medical condition.


Age of Patient


Ninety percent of all T&A's are performed on children under 15 years old. Tonsillectomy alone is rarely done in children less than three years old.


Benefits of Tonsil and Adenoid Surgery


Decrease the frequency and severity of ear, nose, or throat illnesses.

Reduce obstruction in breathing which may improve sleep, growth, and attention span while reducing problems with bed-wetting.

Improve hearing if ear infections were problematic.

Removal of tonsils and adenoids is not associated with increased infections due to the relative inactivity of infected tonsillar and adenoid tissue, as well as the presence of vast amounts of similar tissue left in the body after the procedure, such as lymph nodes.


What are the risks of Tonsil and Adenoid Surgery?


Tonsillectomy is performed under a general anesthetic, and there always is small risk of complications from the anesthesia.  The major complication associated with the tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy itself is bleeding at the site where the tonsils/adenoids were removed. This can occur right after the operation or up to seven to ten days afterwards when the eschar covering the operative site falls off.  Other rare risks of tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy include infection, delayed healing or abnormal scarring.  Dehydration may occur if fluid intake is not maintained at an adequate level.


Pre-Operative Instruction for Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy


Follow instructions from anesthesia/day surgery personnel regarding eating or drinking prior to surgery and time to come to day surgery for your procedure.

You will likely need to remain without food or drink after midnight before the day of your procedure and arrive 1-2 hours earlier than the scheduled time of the procedure.

Avoid use of over the counter medications.



Do not take the following medications for three weeks prior to surgery


ADVIL and all ibuprofen-type medications including Aleve, Relafen, Flexeril, and Motrin.

AFRIN and all over the counter nose sprays.

ASPIRIN and all aspirin containing drugs such as Goody's, BC's and Alka-Seltzer.



Post-Operative Instructions for Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy

Sore throat for 1 to 14 days, with increasing discomfort for the first 5 days. Elevated temperature for up to 4 days.

Earache, especially with swallowing.

Possible mild constipation.

Some blood tinged mucus.




To help avoid nausea do not take pain medication on an empty stomach (with the exception of Tylenol).

Use an ice collar for discomfort or small amount of bleeding. Use regular chewing gum 1/2 hour before meals to stretch throat muscles and make swallowing easier.

Adequate fluid intake will prevent temperature elevation.

May use a mild laxative after the first day, if necessary.

The sooner the throat is used, the sooner the earache will be relieved. Use the throat for talking, swallowing and chewing. It reduces soreness.

Return to work or school after seven days if no difficulties arise. No play on playground or Physical Education for 14 days.

On the fourth day, you may begin eating crusty foods such as crackers, potato chips, pizza, etc. to "rough" the back of the throat and promote healing.

More than likely you will have a foul odor to your breath 3-5 days past surgery. You can gargle with mouthwash or take 1-2 teaspoons of fruit flavored yogurt in your mouth and let it dissolve.

Do not take aspirin or any medication with aspirin. Patients on blood thinners (Coumadin, Aspirin, Plavix, etc.) should discuss this with the doctor.



High fever, although mild fever is not uncommon in the first 4 days after surgery.

Bright red bleeding. The greatest danger period is day 4 through 9 when the white crust comes off. If slight bleeding occurs, put on an ice collar and put the patient to bed. Seek medical treatment if bleeding continues. The patient will be checked by his or her doctor in 1-4 weeks. If you have any question, please call Mann ENT Clinic at (919)859-4744 or go directly to the emergency room.


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