Tonsils

About Tonsils

Tonsils are lumps on each side of the throat made of lymphoid tissue like the adenoids and appendix. Lymphoid tissue contains cells from the immune system.

Although tonsils are part of the immune system sometimes they can cause more harm than good. Children generally have fewer infections following tonsillectomy not more as the tonsils have become a site of recurrent infection.


Cause of Procedure

In the past tonsils were often removed as a preventative measure. Nowadays we only recommend removal if the tonsils are causing a lot of trouble. Problems with the tonsils include:

Breathing difficulties

Large tonsils can cause obstruction to the breathing, especially at night. Children may have pauses in their breathing. Recurrent pauses are known as obstructive sleep apnoea.

If a child has sleep apnoea they may have secondary effects during the day. It may cause them to fall asleep during the day and impair their concentration and school performance.

These problems have been shown to be much improved by removal of the tonsils and adenoids. In very severe cases obstructive sleep apnoea causes heart problems.

Recurrent infections

Some people are prone to recurrent infections in their tonsils (‘tonsillitis’ ). If this is impacting significantly on their lives then it may be better to have the tonsils removed (‘tonsillectomy’).

In children, this may be recommended if they are missing a lot of school.

Diseases

Rarely tonsils can get diseases such as abscesses or tumours. Sometimes abnormal looking tonsils need to be removed to exclude these problems.

Post Procedure 

Children having their tonsils removed will generally stay overnight. They will be seen by the doctor the following morning and if they are eating and drinking sufficiently well and do not have a high temperature then they will go home that morning.

After having your tonsils removed the throat appears white. The new lining of the throat is forming under the white coating. Over the next two weeks the throat heals and the white coating disappears.

Having your tonsils removed is painful. This can be controlled by pain medication, which is given regularly while in hospital. Often the child seems quite well in the early stages due to the medication. It is important to continue with regular pain medication while your child is at home. It is also common for children to have pain in their ears.

Very rarely children experience some bleeding after having their tonsils removed. This is usually minor. If your child has some bleeding you should contact a doctor. If your child has persistent bleeding you should take them to the nearest accident and emergency department.

After the tonsils have been removed children should stay home for two weeks to reduce the chance of them picking up an infection.