Tonsillectomy Q&A

We asked Consultant ENT Surgeon, Mr Andrew Camilleri from the BMI The Alexandra Hospital all about what's involved in a tonsillectomy.

Find out how the procedure is performed, if there are alternatives, and what the recovery is like.

Mr Andrew Camilleri

Tonsillectomy is an operation to remove the palatine tonsils, which are responsible for one of the most reasons for workers to go sick in the UK.

Mr Andrew Camilleri

The tonsils can also be removed for snoring, sleep apnoea and nasal obstruction as well as to biopsy asymmetric ones. Finally, the tonsils are removed in some cases of bad breath where there are deep pits with decaying food in the tonsils. 

Mr Andrew Camilleri
The procedure involves a general anaesthetic and a daytime stay in hospital.

No food or drink must be eaten for six hours prior the anaesthetic.

After the operation the patient is allowed to go home when they are able to eat and drink. They will then take pain killing tablets.

It usually takes up to 10 days to recover from a tonsillectomy operation. The main side-effect is pain on swallowing and talking.

Mr Andrew Camilleri

Recurrent courses of antibiotics are the only alternative to tonsillectomy. Patients usually try this before referral for the procedure. However, once they have had six attacks a year it becomes apparent that surgery may provide a more lasting benefit.

Mr Andrew Camilleri

The main risk of tonsillectomy is a post-operative bleed. These usually occur within the first six hours and patients stay in hospital during that time.

Approximately five days after the operation when the scab lifts off, there is a change of bleeding which is usually small.

Rare risks of tonsillectomy include damage to teeth and altered swallowing with fluid coming out of the nose in patients who have a sub-mucous cleft palate.

The risks of a general anaesthetic is very small but in certain patients with medical problems, other precautions need to be taken. 

Mr Andrew Camilleri

The younger you are the quicker you recover. A four year old will usually have recovered within five days, whereas a 30 year old may take 10 days. Even after this time yawning may cause aching for up to six weeks.

Mr Andrew Camilleri

I first wanted to become a doctor when my father was posted to Nepal with the Army. I saw the amazing work done in the hospital there and decided on that career. Becoming a consultant was a natural progression on my career path.

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