What's it like: To have your tonsils removed

A tonsillectomy is a common procedure performed to remove the tonsils.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: March 17, 2013

Why get a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is a procedure to remove the tonsils, which are in the back of your throat and help fight infection. The American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery recommends that children who have three or more tonsil infections a year undergo a tonsillectomy.

Also, children with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or snoring, might also be candidates for some form of the surgery, including the removal of the adenoids.

A tonsillectomy is performed a variety of ways, including using a scalpel, cauterization or ultrasonic energy.

What happens when you get a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is generally a quick procedure that can take about 10 minutes. To begin, you will be put under general anesthesia, meaning you'll go into a deep sleep. You will likely have a tube in your throat to help you breathe. You'll have a device placed in your mouth to open your mouth and push your tongue out of the way.

From there, your surgeon will remove your tonsils. One of the most common methods to remove the tonsils is cold knife dissection, or using a scalpel to remove them. During this type of procedure, your surgeon will peel out the tonsils, which have a capsule around them.

Electrocautery is another common method. This involves a surgeon burning the tonsillar tissue and cauterization the area to reduce blood loss.

There's a hole that's left behind that will fill with a white substance, but this isn't because the area is infected.

Does it hurt?

Yes. The back of your throat will hurt for about 10 days. You'll be prescribed prescription pain medication to help with the pain. It might be hard to swallow and thus painful to eat or drink. However, it's important to drink enough fluids, for you could get dehydrated. It might also be hard to sleep because of the pain.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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