The tonsils and adenoids are part of a ring of lymphoid tissue in the pharynx called Waldeyer’s ring. This is a part of our immune system but often can be the source of chronic or recurrent infections which if persist despite medical therapy may need to be removed.
Another common indication for tonsil and adenoid surgery is hypertrophy leading to upper airway obstructive symptoms. In both adults and kids who have snoring, mouth breathing, nasal obstruction and even occasionally sleep apnea it can be very helpful to remove the enlarged tonsil and/or adenoid tissue in the upper airway.
An adenoidectomy alone is indicated for children over 3 or 4 who have persistent eustachian tube dysfunction resulting in recurrent middle ear problems or in kids with chronic sinusitis and frequent illness. These patients will have very little pain post-operatively and often return to school or daycare the day after surgery.
A tonsillectomy, on the other hand, is a source of significant throat pain for five to ten days and does require time off from activities along with pain medications. The procedure takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes and patients almost always go home the same day. The sore throat progresses for several days but diet is unrestricted and patients who keep eating and drinking do very well. The risk of bleeding is under 5% and most patients will identify a little bloody mucus around post op day #7. Routine post op appointments are not required and occur rarely although patients and families with any concerns that cannot be handled over the phone are encouraged to follow up in our office for an evaluation as needed.
Patients are occasionally surprised that we still perform tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery quite often. Bellingham ENT physicians do an average of 354 tonsil/adenoid procedures per year. Other indications for a tonsillectomy include tonsil stones, chronic sore throats, tonsil bleeding, tonsil asymmetry, and occasionally tumors.