What Happens During Tonsil Surgery?
The tonsils are two clusters of tissue located on both sides of the back of the throat. If your child has recurring infections of the tonsils or adenoids, the ENT may recommend removal.
Tonsil surgery for repeated infections
Repeated infection is the most common reason for the ENT to recommend tonsil surgery. One case of tonsillitis doesn’t mean your child needs tonsil surgery. But three or more episodes a year for several years or five or more episodes in one year is cause for concern. These repeated infections decrease your child’s quality of life and can cause problems with sleeping and academic performance due to missed time at school.
What happens during a tonsillectomy
ENTs are surgeons as well as clinicians. This means your child won’t need to be referred to a surgeon for tonsil removal. Generally, ENTs perform tonsil surgery on an outpatient basis. If your child is very young or has other serious health problems, they may need to stay overnight. The surgical procedure itself only takes about 30- 45 minutes.
Tonsil surgery is performed using one of these methods:
- Cold Scalpel Tonsil Surgery. This is the most common method of tonsil surgery. The ENT uses an ultrasonic scalpel to completely remove the tonsils. It is performed under general anesthesia and there is usually only minimal post-operative bleeding.
- Electrocautery Surgery. This method uses an instrument with a very hot tip that releases electrical currents. The heat from the current destroys tissue. This method is used to not only remove tissue but to cauterize blood vessels to control bleeding. The tissue damage may make the post-operative period a more uncomfortable.
- Microdebrider. This tool is a rotary device that shaves away tissue. It is used by the ENT to remove only a portion of the tonsil. This is generally done to correct obstructed breathing. This method results in less pain and a faster recovery, but is not for correcting repeated infections.
- Laser Tonsil Ablation. This method uses cutting edge technology, literally. The ENT uses a hand-held carbon dioxide laser to vaporize the tonsil tissue. This method is quick and the recovery is generally mild with little to no bleeding.
After tonsil surgery
No matter what method the ENT uses to remove the tonsils, there will be a recovery period. While it is different for each child, you can plan on it lasting seven to 10 days. While some pain is normal, it will be at its worst in the first days after surgery.
It is important to follow post-operative directions and remember to maintain calm. Your child takes their cues from you. When you are worried, it worries them.
Have questions? Don’t hesitate to call your local ENT’s office.