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Laurence O’Halloran MD
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What to expect after tonsillectomy

Q: Why do tonsils & adenoids need to be removed?

A: Tonsils & adenoids are most often removed when they become enlarged and block the airway, restricting breathing. This can lead to loud snoring, restless sleep and gasping.  They are also removed if certain illnesses such as strep throat and tonsil infections cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Q: Will I be asleep during the tonsillectomy?

A:  Yes, the procedure is performed under general anesthesia, which means you are asleep, and will not feel a thing.  With young children one parent is allowed in the operating room while the child goes to sleep.  For young children it is often possible to put them too sleep before the IV is placed so the child does not experience any pain.


Q: How long will my son or daughter take to recover from a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy?

A: Young patients will typically require 10-14 days of recovery.  Most children will be out of school for 1-2 weeks. We recommend avoiding exercise and strenuous activity for 3 weeks after surgery.

Q: Will I need to stay overnight?

A: In most cases, a tonsillectomy is an outpatient procedure.  Patients younger than 2 years of age or those with severe apnea may require an overnight hospital stay.


Q: What can I expect when my son or daughter comes home from surgery?

A:   Sometimes, patients  vomit after surgery, but vomiting should cease about 24 hours after surgery. It is not unusual to have a low grade fever. You should call your doctor is the temperature exceeds 101.5°F


Q: Why is my child still snoring after surgery?

A: Many parents become concerned when their child continues to snore after surgery. Especially if the reason for surgery was to correct loud snoring and  obstructive breathing.  Don’t worry it is very normal for your child to continue to snore for several days after surgery because of swelling. When the swelling resolves you will frequently see that your child no longer snores. In fact they are sometimes so quite that parents wonder if they are still breathing.


Q: What is the white spot in my throat after tonsillectomy?

A: Scabs in the area where the tonsils and adenoids were removed will appear white and cause bad breath.  They will often break away in pieces about a week after surgery. While this looks like pus it is not a sign of infection and is not reason for concern.


Q: Is it normal to have ear pain after tonsillectomy?

A: Yes, children will often complain of  ear pain after tonsillectomy. Sometimes the ears actually hurt more than the throat even thought the ears were not operated on. This is because the same nerve provides sensation to the throat and the ear.


Q: Is it normal to loose weight after a tonsillectomy?

A: Weight loss is very typical in tonsillectomy. Patents should not worry about calories or nutrition for the first two weeks after surgery.  The most important thing is that your child drinks plenty of liquids and stays well hydrated. This not only prevents dehydration but it helps keep the throat from drying out which.  When the pain resolves your child will begin eating again and are back at the normal weight in no time.


Q: Is it normal to bleed after tonsillectomy?

A: Minor bleeding from the nose or in the mouth is very typical, but if you experience flowing blood from the mouth or nose, contact your physician and go to the emergency room right away.

Q: What is the best way to recover from surgery?

A: It is very important that patients drink plenty of fluids, such as water and apple juice, to recover quickly. It is also important that patients try not to rush to get back to school or work and get plenty of rest.

Q: Why is there only mild pain the first few days after tonsillectomy?

A: The swelling of the surgical area has not yet happened, therefore no pain is felt. The first few days after surgery there tends to be less pain.  About 3 days after surgery the pain will increase and will continue for 10 – 14 days.