Skip to Content
Tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils.
The tonsils are glands at the back of your throat. The tonsils are usually removed along with your adenoid glands. That sugery is called adenoidectomy.
The surgery is done while the child is under general anesthesia. Your child will be asleep and pain free.
After surgery, your child will stay in the recovery room until he or she is awake and can breathe easily, cough, and swallow. Most children go home several hours after this surgery.
The tonsils help protect against infections. But children with large tonsils may have many sore throats and ear infections.
You and your child’s doctor may consider a tonsillectomy if:
The risks for any anesthesia are:
The risks for any surgery are:
Rarely, bleeding after surgery can go unnoticed and cause very bad problems. Swallowing a lot may be a sign of bleeding from the tonsils.
Another risk includes injury to the uvula (soft palate).
Your child’s doctor may ask your child to have:
Always tell your child’s doctor or nurse:
During the days before the surgery:
On the day of the surgery:
A tonsillectomy is usually done in a hospital or surgery center. Your child will go home the same day as the surgery. Children rarely need to stay overnight in the hospital for observation.
Complete recovery takes about 1 to 2 weeks. During the first week, your child should avoid people who are sick. It will be easier for your child to become infected during this time.
After surgery, the number of throat infections is usually lower, but your child will still get some.
Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 375.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.