Removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) for tonsillitis or tonsillar hypertrophy (enlargement) is one of the most common throat surgeries and one of the most common operations in general in children. It is generally used for patients unresponsive to other treatment. For some adults and children, however, tonsillectomy can greatly improve their quality of life. Tonsillectomy may be recommended for patients with one of the following indications:

  • 3 or more infections of tonsils and/or adenoids per year despite adequate medical therapy
  • Enlargement causing dental or orofacial growth problems
  • Enlargement causing upper airway obstruction, severe dysphagia, sleep disorders, or cardiopulmonary complications
  • Peritonsillar abscess unresponsive to medical management and drainage
  • Persistent foul taste or breath due to chronic tonsillitis not responsive to medical therapy
  • Chronic or recurrent tonsillitis associated with strep not responding to antibiotics
  • Unilateral tonsil hypertrophy presumed neoplastic

There are multiple ways to remove the tonsils. Your surgeon can discuss the particular method to be used in your particular case.

What to Expect

Tonsillectomy is typically performed on an outpatient basis unless in a very young child or in patients with other medical problems. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Depending on the age of the patient and reason for tonsillectomy, adenoid removal is often performed in conjunction with tonsillectomy.

Special care and close monitoring for at least a week after the surgery will be required for most children after tonsillectomy. Consider your ability to provide this care for your child before deciding on tonsillectomy. Adults undergoing tonsillectomy typically experience pain and postoperative downtime that is more significant than in children. The typical adult can expect to require at least one week, possible two, off of work. Other home duties including childcare is often difficult for adults during this period and help in the form of other adults is usually needed during the recovery phase. All these things need to be carefully considered before a tonsillectomy.

Sore throat will be experienced after surgery sometimes making it difficult to swallow. You must remember that it is very important to drink plenty of liquids in order that you or your child does not become dehydrated.


As with any surgery there are some risks to tonsillectomy. The most common of these is bleeding. This can occur in up to 2% of patients after tonsillectomy, sometimes even requiring a return trip to the operating room to control the bleeding. The most common time for bleeding to occur is within the first several hours after surgery and again about 7-10 days after the surgery. However, bleeding can occur anytime during the first couple of weeks after surgery.

Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy Videos

For more information see the tonsillectomy post-operative page.

Common ENT Problems

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Surgeries We Perform

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Post-Operative Instructions

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