Once a widely employed procedure, tonsillectomy, or the surgical removal of tonsils, is less common today but still very useful in some patients. To understand why a tonsillectomy would be necessary, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the throat. The tonsils are oval-shaped pads on either side of the throat. Typically, when the tonsils become inflamed, often due to viral or bacterial infection, they can cause several concerns. A tonsillectomy is typically performed to help with the following:
- Disordered breathing, including difficulty breathing and sleep apnea
- Bleeding of the tonsils
- Severe or recurrent tonsillitis
- A tonsillar abscess that does not improve with more conservative care
- Other less common conditions and diseases that affect the tonsils
You may have noticed that tonsillitis is more common in children than adults. This is because tonsils are an integral part of the immune system in our younger years but not as pronounced after a child goes through puberty. So, adults have severe tonsil issues less often.
How Tonsillectomies are Performed
A tonsillectomy is performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning that patients will leave the surgery center on the same day as their procedure. Particular medical concerns may require a patient to be observed overnight at the hospital. However, this is rare. The tonsillectomy is performed under general anesthesia, meaning the patient will be completely asleep and not be aware of the procedure or have any pain during surgery.
To remove the tonsils, Dr. Boger may use a scalpel to cut them away or cautery technology that uses directed heat to destroy the tissue. The procedure itself is relatively safe. However, as with any surgical procedure, potential concerns and considerations will be discussed during a consultation with Dr. Boger.
Is a Tonsillectomy Painful?
Because the procedure is performed under general anesthesia, patients will not experience any pain during the procedure or shortly after. As the general anesthesia wears off, the pain will steadily increase and peak around days two to five. Because kids may be particularly sensitive to pain, we work with parents to get them through with as little discomfort as possible. It is worth noting that adults tend to have more pain after a tonsillectomy than children and a greater risk of post-operative bleeding. This is because every time the tonsils become inflamed, they create extra scar tissue and increased blood supply. Adults will likely have had more of these episodes and thus have developed more scar tissue and a richer supply of small vessels. It typically takes significantly more effort to remove an adult’s tonsils.
Children should experience fewer and less severe cases of sore throat after a tonsillectomy. This may result from having tonsils removed or getting older – this is not a reason to have a tonsillectomy, however.
The pain after tonsillectomy will be controlled with proper medication. Patients may also benefit from sucking on ice to keep the area moist and allowing the cold to numb the pain.
Remember, managing pain is important not only for your child’s comfort but also allows the child to consume appropriate nutrition and stay hydrated after the procedure. Please follow the guidelines given to you by Dr. Boger and the nursing staff.
What About Coke After a Tonsillectomy?
If you research how to alleviate some of the side effects of surgery after a tonsillectomy, you may come across advice to drink Coke or ginger ale for any nausea you may experience after surgery. While this may offer some GI relief, it is more likely to cause pain and irritation at the surgical site. As such, we do not suggest consuming anything but the relatively plain and smooth foods as directed in your post-operative packet.
How Long Does It Take to Recover?
Recovery will vary between patients, but most people can return to relatively normal lifestyles and activities around ten days. Vigorous activity should be avoided for at least two weeks after surgery. Dr. Boger will provide the appropriate postoperative guidance, which should be followed closely to prevent complications.
To learn more about tonsillitis treatment options, we encourage you to contact our office for a consultation.