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. As you get older. your tonsils become less important to tight infection. Your surgeon has recommended a tonsillectomy. However, it is your decision to go ahead with the operation or not. This document will give you information about the benefits and risks to help you make an informed decision.
If you have any questions that this document does not answer, you should ask your surgeon or any member of the healthcare team.
How does tonsillitis happen?
Tonsillitis happens if the tonsils become infected. This causes pain, fever and difficulty swallowing and can make you feel unwell. Tonsillitis usually gets better within seven to ten days. Antibiotics may help if the tonsillitis is due to a bacterial infection. However, tonsillitis is often due to a virus and antibiotics do not help. A tonsillectomy is recommended if tonsillitis is frequent. For children, a tonsillectomy is recommended when the child has had at least four attacks each year for two years in a row. For adults, fewer attacks are needed before a tonsillectomy is recommended, as attacks tend to be more severe (sometimes needing treatment in hospital) and there is less likelihood of the attacks stopping on their own. it is important to realize that sore throats. such as those that happen with a common cold, will still happen after a tonsillectomy. The operation prevents tonsillitis, but will not prevent all sore throats.
What are the benefits of surgery?
A tonsillectomy will prevent you from getting tonsillitis and the resulting pain, fever and difficulty swallowing.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Surgery is recommended, as it is the m dependable way to stop tonsillitis hat keeps on coming back. In adults medical treatment is less likely to be effective. especially following glandular fever.
What will happen if I decide not to have the operation?
You will keep on getting tonsillitis. Occasionally, an abscess may form behind the tonsil. This is known as a ‘quinsy’ and needs the pus to be removed through a needle and treatment with antibiotics. Very rarely. the infection may spread further into the tissues of the neck causing a ‘parapharyngeal’ or ‘retropharyngeal’ abscess. This is a serious complication and needs an operation to drain away the pus.
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 mouth.
- Cold dissection technique Your surgeon will use a steel instrument to peel or cut the tonsil away from the layer of muscle underneath it.
- Diathermy technique Your surgeon will use a diathermy instrument that uses heat to remove the tonsil and cauterize the area.
Your surgeon will then stop any extra bleeding.
What should I do about my medication?
You should continue your normal medication unless you are told otherwise. Let your surgeon know if you are on warfarin or clopidogrel. Follow your surgeon’s advice about stopping this medication before the operation.
What can I do to help make the operation a success?
- Lifestyle changes
if you smoke, try to stop smoking now. Stopping smoking several weeks or more before an operation may reduce your chances of getting complications and will improve your long-term health.
For help and advice on stopping smoking, go to www.hhs.uk/smokefree
You have a higher chance of developing complications if you are overweight.
For advice on maintaining a healthy weight, go to www.eatwell.gov.uk.
Regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and other medical conditions, improve how your lungs work, boost your immune system, help you to control your weight and improve your mood. Exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help with your recovery and improve your long-term health.
For infomation on how exercise can help you, go to www.eidoactive.co.uk.