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Tonsillectomy In Children


A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove your child's tonsils. Tonsils are 2 large lumps of tissue in the back of your child's throat. Adenoids are small lumps of tissue on top of the throat. Tonsils and adenoids both fight infection. Your child may need his tonsils removed to improve breathing and asthma, and to reduce throat, sinus, and ear infections. His adenoids may be taken out at the same time if they are large or infected.


Before surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.
  • Caregivers may want to talk with you before surgery about the anesthesia medicines your child will need. They may also let you know about the care your child may need after surgery. Tell them if anyone in your family has had problems using anesthesia.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.
  • Sedative: This medicine may be given to help your child to be calm and relaxed.
  • General anesthesia will keep your child asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your child's IV. He may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down his throat. The tube may cause your child to have a sore throat when he wakes up.

During surgery:

Your child will be attached to monitors to check his heart, breathing, and blood pressure. A towel may be placed under his shoulders to help lean his head back. This will let the caregiver see your child's tonsils and adenoids more clearly. The caregiver will place small tools inside your child's mouth to keep his mouth open and keep his tongue out of the way. He will then remove your child's tonsils. He may only need to remove part of the tonsils. He may also remove your child's adenoids if they are large or infected. Lastly, the caregiver will stop the bleeding in the areas where tissue was removed.

After surgery:

Your child will be taken to a recovery area where caregivers watch him until he is alert. A caregiver may place an ice pack around his throat to ease his pain and reduce swelling. Your child may be able to go home if he has enough fluids in his body. He may need to stay in the hospital overnight or longer if he is less than 3 years, has sleep apnea or bad pain, or if he needs fluids.


  • Pain medicine: Your child may be given medicine to decrease pain. Watch your child for signs of pain. Do not wait until his pain is severe before you ask for more pain medicine. Tell caregivers if you think your child's pain continues or gets worse.
  • Anti-nausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your child's stomach and control vomiting (throwing up). Your child may have an upset stomach after surgery or taking pain medication.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your child's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask you or your child about his pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your child's current health.

Pulse oximeter:

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your child's foot, toe, hand, finger, or earlobe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your child's oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

Heart monitor:

This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your child's skin record the electrical activity of his heart.

Intake and output:

Caregivers may need to know how much liquid your child is getting and urinating. Your child may need to urinate into a container in bed or in the toilet. A caregiver will measure the amount of urine. If your child wears diapers, a caregiver may need to weigh them. Do not throw away diapers or flush urine down the toilet before asking a caregiver.

Tell your child not to cough, blow his nose, or clear his throat right after surgery:

This may cause his throat to bleed.

Food and drink:

Your child will be given liquids such as water, apple juice, and clear soft drinks. He will also be given ice chips to gently suck on. He may be given soft, plain foods, such as ice cream and applesauce, if his stomach is not upset.


  • Your child may bleed more than expected during or after surgery. His risk of bleeding increases with age and if he is around smoke. Your child may get a fever or infection after surgery. He may also have swelling in his mouth, throat, or lungs that makes it hard to breathe. Your child may have heavy bleeding after surgery or when he gets home. This can be life-threatening. Anesthesia medicine may make it hard for your child to breathe. Rarely, it can cause heart problems and be life-threatening.
  • Your child may have an upset stomach or he may vomit after surgery. He may have pain in his throat, ears, or jaw that lasts up to 2 weeks. It may hurt for your child to swallow, and he may not feel like drinking liquids. He could also get a blood infection. This could be life-threatening. Your child's tonsils could grow back after surgery.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.