Tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils)

A tonsillectomy is a procedure carried out under general anaesthetic

What is a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is an operation to remove the tonsils which are the lumps at the back of the mouth. Most common indication for tonsillectomy is recurrent tonsillitis, an illness causing pain, fever and difficulty swallowing. Tonsillitis usually gets better within 7-10 days. Antibiotics may help if the tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection but it is often caused by a virus and antibiotics do not help. The operation to prevent tonsillitis does not prevent all sore throats. Other indications for a tonsillectomy include snoring and sleep problems, or if the tonsils appear abnormal.

Who does the operation?

All of our consultants are able to carry out tonsillectomies. They take place under general anaesthetic and the operation takes about an hour.

Before the Operation

You can help to ensure success of your operation and avoid complications by following a few simple steps.  Stop smoking (if you do) at least 4 weeks prior to the procedure.   Maintain a healthy weight and taking regular exercise.

The Operation

The operation takes place as a day-case and usually occurs in the morning. Before the operation is booked, we must check that you live within 30 minutes’ drive of an A&E department due to the risk of bleeding following the operation. If you live further away, you may be required to spend the night in hospital. You must be accompanied home in a car or taxi and a responsible adult must stay with you for 24 hours.

A tonsillectomy can take place in a number of different ways which your consultant will discuss with you. These include:

  • Cold dissection technique which uses a steel instrument to remove the tonsil.
  • Diathermy technique which involves using heat to remove and cauterise tissue.

After the operation

For the first 24 hours after a general anaesthetic, you should not drive, sign any legal documents, operate machinery or do any potentially dangerous activities (including cooking). Alcohol should also be avoided for 24 hours. After the procedure you can expect to be in some pain, which the nursing staff will give you medication for. The pain can last for up to two weeks and can worsen on day 4-5, particularly in the mornings. If you eat and drink normally, this will ease the pain and speed up the healing process, even though it may be difficult. It keeps the muscles at the back of your throat moving and if the muscles seize up the pain will get worse. Stay off work/school and away from groups of people for at least one week to prevent throat infections whilst your throat is healing. Maintain regular exercise as soon as you are able to.

Is a follow up appointment required?

A follow up appointment is sometimes required after the operation.