When children have a cold or a throat infection the tonsils can become infected and swell up, causing symptoms such as a sore throat, headache and fever. This is called tonsillitis. They can also block the airways, making it difficult for your child to breathe, especially when asleep. This can cause sleep problems such as snoring. In severe cases they can stop your child from breathing for a short time ,known as sleep apnoea.
Diagnosing Tonsils and Adenoid
Examination of the tonsils by looking in the back of your child’s mouth using a light and mirror or a flexible telescope.
Your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy if your child suffers from frequent bouts of tonsillitis or ear infections, or has breathing problems caused by swollen tonsils.
Xray of the Postnasal space shows enlarged adenoid.
A tonsillectomy usually requires an overnight stay in hospital. If your child has a cold or infection in the week before the operation, please let your doctor know about it. The operation may need to be postponed until your child has fully recovered.
The operation is done under general anaesthesia. This means your child will be asleep during the procedure. Typically, your child must not eat or drink for about six hours before a general anaesthetic. Often the operation will be planned for the morning, so that your child will only have to miss breakfast.
The surgeon and anaesthetist will usually visit your child before the operation. Please tell them if your child has any allergies, loose teeth or any history of bleeding problems in the family.
You may be asked to sign a consent form. This confirms that you understand the risks, benefits and possible alternatives to the procedure and have given your permission for it to go ahead.
Most tonsillectomy operations are done in children under 15. The only effective treatment for recurrent and persistent tonsillitis is to have the tonsils removed. The tonsils will shrink in size as your child grows older, so an operation may not be necessary. Painkillers and antibiotics only provide temporary relief and are not used for long-term treatment. A viral infection won’t respond to antibiotics.
The operation usually takes about 30 minutes. There are several methods available for removing tonsils.
and Traditional Disection method – a special surgical blade is used to cut out the tonsils. Pressure is applied to stop the bleeding, and dissolvable stitches or heat is used to seal the wound.
and Laser Tonsillectomy
Post op period
Your child will be monitored and will need to rest on their side until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. Your child will be groggy, and may feel or be sick.
Your child may complain of a sore throat, earache and a stiff jaw. Pain relief and antibiotics are usually prescribed for a week .
You should encourage your child to drink and eat as soon as they feel ready, starting with clear fluids such as water or apple juice.
After about 12 hours, a white or yellowish membrane -slough – will appear where the tonsils were. This is nothing to worry about and is not a sign of infection.
Your child will usually be ready to go home the morning after the operation. Before you go home a nurse will give you a date for a follow-up appointment.
Recovering from tonsillectomy
Once home, follow the surgeon’s advice about pain relief. You can give your child painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen syrup .Follow the instructions in the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine and ask your pharmacist for advice. Do not give aspirin to children under 16.
If your child is prescribed antibiotics it’s important to finish the course.
Get your child to drink plenty of fluids and eat. It’s best to start with soft or liquid foods which are easier to swallow. Giving your child a dose of pain relief half an hour before meals may help make eating more comfortable. Encourage your child to brush their teeth thoroughly, at least twice a day.
Your child should rest for a few days and stay at home to avoid contact with possible infections at school. Also keep your child away from crowded and smoky places, and from people with coughs and colds.
If your child develops any of the following symptoms, please contact your doctor or the hospital immediately if any bleeding from the nose or throat or a high temperature
You can expect your child to make a full and quick recovery once the initial pain has resolved. Complete recovery can take two weeks.
Tonsillectomy is commonly performed and generally safe. However, in order to make an informed decision and give your consent, you need to be aware of the possible side-effects and the risk of complications of this procedure.
These are the unwanted, but mostly temporary effects of a successful procedure, for example feeling sick as a result of the general anaesthetic. Common side-effects include:
and sore throat, earache and a stiff jaw – these side-effects may last for up to two weeks
and bad breath – this usually improves after two to three weeks
This is when problems occur during or after the operation. Most children are not affected. The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding or infection. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to help prevent infection.
Specific complications of tonsillectomy are rare but include:
and bleeding within 24 hours – your child may need to go back into theatre to have it stopped
and bleeding four to seven days after the operation (secondary haemorrhage) – this can be the result of an infection
and damage to the teeth or jaw – this can be caused by the instruments used to keep the mouth open during surgery
and chest infection and breathing problems – there’s a risk blood and tissue from the operation may get into the throat and down into the lungs