What is Involved in Tonsil Surgery?

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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 09 June 2019
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Tonsil surgery is often necessary if someone experiences frequent tonsillitis, an infection of the tonsils. The surgery itself is referred to as a tonsillectomy. Tonsil surgery requires anesthesia, removal of the tonsils, and recovery.

Located along the sides of the throat, tonsils are bundles of tissue that help the body fight infections. Tonsils can also become infected and will appear swollen and red when this occurs. Other symptoms of infected tonsils include sore throat, fever, and pain when swallowing.

Tonsils are not necessary, so frequent cases of tonsillitis may lead a physician to recommend removal of the tonsils. The removal of tonsils can help limit sore throats and infections. Removal can also help alleviate symptoms associated with swollen tonsils, such as trouble breathing at night.

Preparation for tonsil surgery will require adherence to physician orders. This will include not eating or drinking anything the night before the surgery. An overnight stay may be required, though many patients go home the same day. Patients may want to bring a change of clothes and something to occupy their time.

Patients receive anesthesia before tonsil surgery. Anesthesia will help the patient fall asleep and remain free of pain during the operation itself. An anesthesiologist will measure the amount of anesthesia the patient receives and keep an eye on the levels during the surgery.


Removal of tonsils takes approximately 20 minutes. Physicians remove the tonsils from the oral cavity while the mouth is propped open. Any bleeding will be stopped by the physician before sending the patient to the recovery room.

Recovery involves waking from anesthesia and being examined by physicians. Anesthesia can leave a patient feeling dizzy and possibly nauseous. Patients may have a sore throat, and will be monitored before being released to continue recovery at home.

Once at home, patients need to take steps to encourage healing of the surgery area. This includes drinking plenty of fluids and restraining from activity. Recovery can take anywhere from a few days to a week. Eating soft foods may be recommended to reduce pain with swallowing. A physician may also recommend an antibiotic to prevent infection and an over-the-counter pain reliever to help ease pain.

After tonsil surgery, patients may notice white patches developing at the surgical site. These patches are normal, and they will begin to peel off in a week or so. A checkup with a physician will make sure that the surgery site is healing well and will also clear the patient to return to activity.



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