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What is Adult Tonsillectomy?

Adult tonsillectomy is surgical procedure performed to remove both tonsils which are the two lumps of tissue located at the back of the oral cavity on either side of the throat of an adult patient.

Normal Anatomy of the Tonsils

The tonsils are part of the immune system and are very similar to lymph nodes. They help trap bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens as they try to enter the body through the mouth and nose. Tonsils grow larger until 3-7 years of age and start shrinking in the teenage years until they almost disappear in adults. Tonsils may become enlarged or inflamed when fighting pathogens.

Indications for Adult Tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy may be indicated if you have

  • Recurrent tonsillitis
  • Bleeding from the tonsils
  • Complications from the enlargement of tonsils
  • Cancer or other rare diseases of the tonsils

Preparation for Adult Tonsillectomy

Specific instructions will be provided by your surgeon. In general, you should:

  • Inform your surgeon about any health conditions, allergies, and medications you are taking.
  • Avoid smoking as it will slow down the healing process.
  • Follow the eating and drinking restrictions given prior to the surgery.

Adult Tonsillectomy Procedure

  • The surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure.
  • You may be given general anesthesia through a mask or through an IV line.
  • Once you are asleep, the tonsils will be removed with a surgical scalpel through the mouth.
  • The procedure will be completed in 30 minutes to an hour.
  • The anesthesia medication will then be discontinued, and you will be moved to the recovery room.

Recovery after Adult Tonsillectomy

  • You may take 1-2 hours to recover from the effects of anesthesia after which you may be discharged home. 
  • There be temporary jaw discomfort and a sore throat, and your surgeon will provide medications to alleviate symptoms if necessary.
  • You may return to work or routine activities after 2 weeks.
  • Strenuous activity and contact with sick individuals should be avoided for about 2-3 weeks after surgery.

Risks of Adult Tonsillectomy

Adult tonsillectomy is a very safe procedures which can greatly improve your quality of life; however, as with any other surgery, there is a minimal risk of complications which include infection, bleeding, nausea, vomiting, and airway obstruction. You should inform you, surgeon, immediately if you have increasing fever, pain, nausea, or difficulty with intake of foods and fluids.