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The tonsils are part of a group of lymphoid tissues (glands in your neck) that help to fight off infection from germs that are breathed in or swallowed. Tonsillitis happens if the tonsils become infected.

For children, a tonsillectomy is recommended when the child has had at least four attacks each year for two years in a row. For adults, fewer attacks are needed before a tonsillectomy is recommended, as attacks tend to be more severe and there is less likelihood of the attacks stopping on their own.

What happens during a tonsillectomy?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about half an hour. Your surgeon will perform the tonsillectomy through your mouth. They will cut or peel the tonsils away from the layer of muscle underneath them or use heat to remove the tonsils and cauterise (stop the bleeding) in the area.

After your tonsillectomy

You should be able to go home the day after your surgery or sometimes a tonsillectomy is done as a day case (no overnight stay in hospital). The pain may last for up to two weeks. It will tend to be worse first thing in the morning. Over the counter pain killers should help.

You will need to stay off work or school and away from groups of people for two weeks after the operation. This is to help prevent throat infections while your throat is still healing.

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following a tonsillectomy. As with any surgery there can be complications:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the surgical wounds

Specific complications of a tonsillectomy:

  • Small pieces of the tonsils left behind
  • Lingual tonsillitis (tonsils hidden behind the tongue).
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