A tonsillectomy is a common surgical procedure that involves the partial or complete removal of the tonsils. Part of the body’s immune system, the tonsils are the two tissues in the back of the mouth – one on each side of the mouth. These small organs help the immune system trap bacteria, viruses, and other harmful toxins that we inhale; preventing illness. Though they perform such a valuable task in helping the body remain healthy, tonsils can also become infected. They can actually experience chronic infection, requiring their removal as the best treatment option. Tonsillectomies are more common among children and teens but can also be an effective treatment option for adults.
Understanding Tonsillitis & Tonsillectomies
Tonsillitis is caused by viral or bacterial infection that causes the tonsils to become inflamed and infected. This creates symptoms that can be incredibly painful, including the following:
- Intense throat pain, sore throat
- Swollen tonsils that can appear red
- Difficulty swallowing, discomfort speaking
- Fever, headache
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Tonsillitis that occurs once or infrequently can be treated relatively easily depending on the cause of infection. People can typically recover naturally from tonsillitis that is caused by viral infections – recovery is typically expected within two weeks. Antibiotics are used to treat tonsillitis produced by bacterial infections.
If tonsillitis is experienced chronically, meaning that people regularly develop tonsillitis, the most effective treatment option could be a tonsillectomy. In addition to treating chronic tonsillitis, a tonsillectomy can also be the most suitable for people who:
- experience adverse reactions to antibiotics
- have already taken antibiotics several times
- tonsillitis symptoms profoundly impact daily life
- pus accumulates on tonsils
This surgical procedure needs to be determined by your doctor who is able to conduct comprehensive assessments.
Tonsillectomies for Adults
Though tonsillectomies are performed more on children, adults can also benefit from the surgical procedure. People of all ages can develop tonsillitis but it is more common for people ages 5-15. This age range often experiences greater exposure to bacteria (via school), leading to infection and tonsillitis. However, adults can also experience chronic tonsillitis which can be treated by receiving a tonsillectomy.
The surgical procedure for adults and children is the same and it involves either:
- partial: only part of the tonsils is removed
- total: the tonsils are completely removed
Your doctor will determine which type of tonsillectomy is best for long-term results. The only minor difference to be aware of is the recovery time. Because adult tonsils tend to be larger (as they are fully developed), it can take a little longer to recover. It typically takes non-adults one week to fully resume normal daily activities whereas for adults, it can take two weeks. Instructions for recovery and what’s recommended is also the same for adults and children:
- take pain medication when needed
- drink lots of fluids
- refrain from participating in physical activity
- eat soft, easy foods
The effectiveness of the surgery as treatment for tonsillitis and the relatively easy and short recovery makes tonsillectomies a great treatment option.
Benefits & Risks
Knowing the benefits and risks of a tonsillectomy is an important part of assessing the safety (and effectiveness) of the surgery. There are minimal risks associated with tonsillectomies which align with the general risks with surgery more broadly. The greatest risk is post-operative bleeding which is not common. Small amounts of bleeding typically occur within the week after the surgery as the raw muscles are healing. Life-threatening bleeding is not particularly common with tonsillectomies but in the event of excessive bleeding, a doctor needs to be seen immediately.
The benefits of this surgical procedure are the minimal recovery time and effective treatment of infection. Once the tonsils are removed, they can no longer become infected which prevents tonsillitis from occurring again! For people who experience chronic tonsillitis and the unpleasant symptoms produced, this can be profoundly beneficial for health and wellness.
If you experience chronic tonsillitis as an adult, a tonsillectomy could be an effective treatment option for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.