Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy

What is a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy?

Tonsils are small, round pieces of tissue located in the back of the mouth on both sides of the throat. Adenoids are similar to tonsils but located in back of the nasal cavity.

Tonsils and adenoids are often removed when they become large and inflamed and begin to cause frequent infections. The procedure to remove tonsils is known as a tonsillectomy, and removal of the adenoids is called an adenoidectomy. Because they are often removed at the same time, the procedure is referred to as a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or T&A. The surgery is most commonly performed in children.

What is a tonsillotomy?

A tonsillotomy is the partial removal of the tonsils. Studies have shown that, compared to a full tonsillectomy, children often recover more quickly with less pain after a tonsillotomy. Both procedures relieve upper airway obstruction, however, some children’s tonsils grow back after a tonsillotomy, and their symptoms return.

Why would my child need a T&A?

A T&A may be recommended if your child has repeated tonsil and adenoid infections caused by inflammation — known as tonsillitis and adenoiditis — that do not respond to more conservative treatments.

Your doctor may decide a T&A is the best option if the tonsils and adenoids are causing a functional problem, such as:

  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • recurrent infections
  • tonsil stones
  • trouble swallowing
  • tumor in the throat or nasal passage
  • bleeding from the tonsils that cannot be stopped
  • significant blockage of the nasal passage and uncomfortable breathing

The American Academy of Otolaryngology offers these guidelines to determine if a child should have a T&A:

  • seven sore throats in one year
  • five sore throats in each of two years
  • three sore throats in each of three years

The sore throats may be associated with the following:

  • Fever above 101°F
  • discharge on the tonsils
  • positive strep throat culture

What happens during T&A?

Most T&A surgeries are done on an outpatient basis. This means your child will have surgery and then go home the same day. During the surgery, your child will be anesthetized in the operating room. The surgeon will remove your child's tonsils and adenoids through the mouth. There will be no cut on the skin.

In most cases, after the surgery, your child will go to a recovery room where they can be monitored closely. After your child is fully awake and doing well, the recovery-room nurse will bring your child back to the day surgery area.

At this point, if everything is going well, you and your child will be able to go home. If your child is going to stay the night in the hospital, your child will be brought from the recovery room to their room.