Tonsil removal - what to ask your doctor

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Definition

Your child may have throat infections and need surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy). These glands are located at the back of the throat. The tonsils and the adenoid glands can be removed at the same time. The adenoid glands are located above the tonsils, in the back of the nose.

Before a child's tonsil or adenoid surgery

Below are some questions you may want to ask your child's health care provider to care for your child after surgery.

Alternative Names

What to ask your doctor about tonsil removal; Tonsillectomy - what to ask your doctor

Questions

Questions to ask about having tonsillectomy:

  • Why does my child need a tonsillectomy?
  • Are there other treatments that can be tried? Is it safe not to get tonsils removed?
  • Can my child still get strep throat and other throat infections after tonsillectomy?
  • Can my child still have sleep problems after tonsillectomy?

Questions to ask about the surgery:

  • Where is the surgery done? How long does it take?
  • What type of anesthesia will my child need? Will my child feel any pain?
  • What are the risks of the surgery?
  • When does my child need to stop eating or drinking before the anesthesia? What if my child is breastfeeding?
  • When do my child and I need to arrive on the day of the surgery?

Questions for after tonsillectomy:

  • Will my child be able to go home on the same day as surgery?
  • What type of symptoms will my child have while they are healing from surgery?
  • Will my child be able to eat normally when we get home? Are there foods that will be easier for my child to eat or drink? Are there foods that my child should avoid?
  • What should I give my child to help with pain after the surgery?
  • What should I do if my child has any bleeding?
  • Will my child be able to do normal activities? How long will it be before my child is back to full strength?

References

Baugh RF, Archer SM, Mitchell RB, et al. Clinical practice guideline: tonsillectomy in children. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011;144(1 Suppl):S1-30. PMID: 21493257 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21493257.

Friedman NR, Yoon PJ. Pediatric adenotonsillar disease, sleep disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnea. In: Scholes MA, Ramakrishnan VR, eds. ENT Secrets. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 49.

Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 383.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 4/3/2017
  • Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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