What are the tonsils?
The tonsils are part of a group of lymphoid tissues (like the glands in your neck) that help to fight off infection from germs that are breathed in or swallowed.
Tonsillitis happens if the tonsils become infected (see figure 1).
For children, a tonsillectomy is recommended when the child has had at least four attacks each year for two years in a row.
What are the benefits of surgery?
A tonsillectomy will prevent your child from getting tonsillitis and the resulting pain, fever and difficulty swallowing.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back. In children, a long course of antibiotics may break a cycle of frequent infections or the tonsillitis may simply stop after a few years.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about half an hour. Your surgeon will perform the tonsillectomy through your child’s mouth. They will cut or peel the tonsil away from the layer of muscle underneath it, or use heat to remove the tonsil and cauterise the area. They will then stop any extra bleeding.
What complications can happen?
1. General complications of any operation
- Infection in the surgical wound
2. Specific complications of this operation
- Small pieces of the tonsil may be left behind
- Lingual tonsillitis
How soon will my child recover?
Your child should be able to go home the following day. Sometimes a tonsillectomy is done as a day case (no overnight stay in hospital).
The pain will last for up to two weeks. It will tend to be worse first thing in the morning.
Your child will need to stay off school and away from groups of people for two weeks after the operation. This is to help prevent throat infections while your child’s throat is still healing.
If left untreated, tonsillitis can cause complications. Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back.
Paying for the operation
Tonsillectomy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Author: Miss Ruth Capper MD FRCS (ORL-HNS)
Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2007 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved.
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