Tonsillectomy

INTRODUCTION:

Tonsillectomy surgery is done for both children and adults. It is a commonly undertaken procedure that is quick and safe although the recovery is painful.

REASONS FOR SURGERY:

Dr Wallace recommends tonsillectomy for some or all of the following reasons:

  • Recurrent tonsil infections or tonsillitis
  • Blockage to breathing causing snoring, mouth breathing and possibly sleep apnoea
  • Chronic tonsil infection with offensive tonsil discharge / ‘tonsil stones’
  • Rarely a tonsil tumour or growth

RISKS OF SURGERY:

Surgery is associated with a low risk of complications. The specific risks of tonsillectomy of which you should be aware are:

  • For 2 or 3 patients in 100, there will be late secondary bleeding. This tends to happen at 7-14 days after surgery. It will show as bright blood from the nose or mouth. If asleep, you will awake coughing out any blood. Where bleeding persists for more than 5 minutes, you should contact Dr Wallace and/or attend the nearest hospital emergency department. Children should preferably be taken to the Children’s Hospital.
  • Superficial infection of the surgical site occurs with normal healing due to mouth bacteria. A yellow/grey slough or moist scab forms which takes about 10 days to be absorbed. A significant infection is rare. It will be accompanied by a fever above 38°C and then seeking a course of antibiotic from either Dr Wallace or your GP would be appropriate.

ANAESTHESIA:

This surgery is done under a General Anaesthetic for which you will be asleep for approximately 30 minutes.

THE OPERATION:

The tonsils (and adenoids in children) are removed via the mouth using a technique called Coblation. This removes the tonsil by electrocautery under a steady flow of cool saline. No stitches are required.

FOLLOW -UP CARE:

The majority of patients stay in hospital overnight and Dr Wallace visits the hospital early the next morning to check on you. The anaesthetist will prescribe appropriate pain relief medication to be taken at home. Maintaining good hydration is critical but eating is not.
Dr Wallace encourages adults and older children to chew gum between meals to help push away the swelling that occurs in the palate and to limit the growth of mouth bacteria in the healing tissues.
A post-op appointment in the office should be made for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.
It takes at least 2 weeks for the throat to fully heal but for children, the recovery period is usually shorter and less painful. Most adult patients have the first week off work and some may need more time. A medical certificate will be provided as required.

COMBINED OPERATIONS:

The operation of Tonsillectomy is often combined with Adenoidectomy in children to deal with nasal obstruction and sleep apnoea. In adults, it is often combined with nasal or palate surgery to deal with snoring.

RESULTS:

The vast majority of patients will be very glad that they put themselves through the discomfort of tonsillectomy. Within 4-6 weeks, they will feel much healthier than at any time in the preceding year.