What are tonsils?

Tonsils are a type of lymphoid tissue, which are located at the back of the throat. They have a role in helping fight infection, but can become infected themselves, which can cause them to swell up. This is called tonsillitis. They don’t need to be removed unless they are causing you trouble.

How do you do a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is an operation performed under general anaesthetic, to remove the tonsils, which is done through the mouth, so there are no visible scars afterwards. There are a variety of methods, which can be used to remove tonsils, and the method chosen will be according to the nature of your tonsils. The commonest method is known as “cold steel”, which is where metal instruments are used to “dissect” the tonsil out of its pocket. Small stitches are placed to help control any bleeding.

What are the risks of having a tonsillectomy?

The commonest complaint after a tonsillectomy is pain. It will be sore for approximately a week after surgery before the pain begins to subside. There is a risk of infection after surgery which can increase the pain and also lead to a risk of bleeding. If bleeding occurs, then you should attend your nearest emergency department to see a doctor. Finally, as metal guards are used to hold the mouth open, there is a small risk of dental injury, but this is extremely uncommon in healthy teeth.

What should I do after surgery?

After your tonsillectomy, it is advisable to eat and drink a regular diet, particularly including food items ,which you need to chew. For the first week, it would be advisable to take regular pain killers. You should ideally take ten days away from work or school to reduce the risk of picking up an infection.