Tonsillectomy Or Tonsil Removal Surgery

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What is a tonsillectomy?

The tonsils are two lumps of tissue located on either side of the back of the throat. They are often removed when they become enlarged due to infection. A tonsillectomy is the surgical procedure that removes these infected or enlarged tonsils. Often, the adenoids, which are located just above the tonsils behind the nose, are also removed at the same time as a tonsillectomy if they have become enlarged as well (adenoid hypertrophy). When the adenoids are removed, it is known as an adenoidectomy. A tonsillectomy can be performed by ear, nose and throat physicians.

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Why is a tonsillectomy performed?

A tonsillectomy is considered necessary if a patient has had several throat infections in a short period of time, or is suffering an ongoing case of tonsillitis that does not respond to treatment with medication. Additionally, patients suffering from upper airway restrictions due to enlarged tonsils may need a tonsillectomy to relieve snoring or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A tonsillectomy may be performed in a variety of ways and is often combined with the removal of the adenoids. The surgical method chosen is dependent on the patient’s overall medical condition and the severity of the infection.

Is age a factor for a person requiring a tonsillectomy?

Age itself isn’t the issue, it’s the number of times the child or adult has tonsillitis. If the numbers are chronic, as described above, that is the determinant of whether the person should have their tonsils removed.

The same is true with airway obstruction by the person having enlarged tonsils. This isn’t an age problem, it’s tissue size that matters. Again, the damage that occurs from sleep apnea outweighs the value of a person keeping his or her tonsils.

What are the benefits of having a tonsillectomy?

People normally think of teenagers having their tonsils out, and that is still done but nowhere as often as back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Today, adults can be just as likely to have Dr. Volpi perform a tonsillectomy, as they suffer from frequent severe sore throats, sleep apnea, and they’re missing too much time from work.

Here are five benefits to having your tonsils removed if you’re prone to tonsillitis:

  1. Fewer infections — Once your tonsils are removed, you will be much less prone to tonsillitis caused by bacterial infection. You’ll still be at risk for colds and viruses, but these will be less likely to evolve into persistent infections. Surgery with Dr. Volpi could be a good idea if you’ve had tonsillitis at least seven times in one year, five infections per year for two consecutive years, or three infections per year for three consecutive years.
  2. Improved quality of life — The chronic pain and sore throat associated with tonsillitis can get in the way of living. You need to miss work or school. You’ll have to cancel social functions. You can fear winters because it seems you have a sore throat all the time.
  3. Less medication — Less medication is always good. Without your persistent infections, you’ll need far fewer antibiotic prescriptions, which is good, because while antibiotics do help fight your infection, they also kill good bacteria (such as that needed for proper digestion) at the same time. This will also lower your bacterial resistance to infection-fighting drugs.
  4. Improved sleep — Adults with frequent tonsillitis often also have sleep apnea, where their sleep is interrupted many times per night when swollen tissues block airflow. Sleep apnea has numerous side issues, such as increased car accidents, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, daytime sleepiness, irritability, brain fog, and others.
  5. Less missing work or school — When you have tonsillitis, you’re going to miss work or school. Without the frequent infections, your absences will decrease.

What are the potential risks involved with a tonsillectomy?

These are common surgeries, but they are still surgery, so they run the risks involved with any surgery. These include reaction to anesthesia, excessive bleeding, and infection. There is also a risk of bleeding during your recovery if the scab over one of both incisions is dislodged.

where is a Tonsillectomy performed?

The tonsillectomy procedure is an outpatient surgery, performed under general anesthesia. In general, patients who undergo the procedure are discharged within several hours. Sometimes, when a patient is suffering from OSA, they are kept overnight for further monitoring during sleep.

What is recovery like after a tonsillectomy?

Unfortunately, these can be relatively painful recoveries. That’s because the area of the tonsils is quite sensitive and has plenty of nerve coverage. It’s important to lay low and stay in bed for several days after your surgery with Dr. Volpi. Your throat will, of course, be sore. But you may also have soreness in your jaw, ears, or even your neck. The first two or three days are the hardest; that’s when you really need to lay in bed or on the couch.


Dr. Volpi will prescribe prescription pain medication.

Staying hydrated is very important, but you don’t want to hurt your throat. If you don’t like the feeling of drinking immediately, slowly dissolving ice chips is a good way to both get some water and to keep your mouth and the surgical area cool. You can eat ice cream, pudding, and yogurt. As soon as you can eat other foods that are easy to chew and swallow, you should bring those back into your diet. Nothing acidic, spicy, crunchy, or hard should even be contemplated, as they can all cause pain and/or bleeding.

You may have swelling in your throat and with your tongue. You may have a feeling of having something stuck in your throat (that’s the swelling). If you swallowed any blood, you’ll likely have some vomiting. Your breath won’t be exactly minty fresh as the tissues heal in the back of your mouth.

You will need to fully avoid strenuous activity for two weeks. This is no time to tough it out. You don’t want to elevate blood pressure to your facial area.

Most people can return to school or work within two weeks after a tonsillectomy.

What should you not do after your tonsillectomy?

As mentioned in the recovery section, you’ll need to avoid any strenuous activity or exercise for two full weeks. This isn’t something to trifle with, as you need to keep blood pressure down to your entire head and face. This helps the tissues begin healing.

Also, as you would assume, you cannot eat anything crunchy, with any sharp angles (pretzels or chips, for instance), and anything spicy. These can all cause bleeding.

Are tonsillectomies covered by insurance?

Most insurance carriers fully cover tonsillectomies because they are deemed medically necessary to help the patient end his or her frequent infections.

Schedule a Client Consultation

If you are suffering from tonsillitis and believe you may need tonsillectomy surgery, the first step towards feeling better is to schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor. Board certified physicians with New York ENT have extensive experience performing tonsillectomy in adults. Fill out the form on this page or call our office at  212-873-6036  to schedule an appointment today.

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