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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.


The week before surgery:

  • Tell your child's caregiver about these conditions:
    • Your child snores when he sleeps or has sleep apnea.
    • Your child has a respiratory infection or a medical condition that affects his breathing.
    • Your child has acid reflux.
    • Your child has a blood disorder. Also tell him if your child has ever had bleeding or bruising that lasted longer than you expected.
    • You know or think your child might be pregnant.
  • Medicines:
    • Ask your caregiver if your child needs to stop using any medicines before his surgery.
    • When you take your child to see his caregiver, bring a list of his medicines or the medicine bottles. Tell caregivers if your child uses herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine. If your child is allergic to any medicine, tell his caregiver.
  • Tests: Your child may need blood tests, a chest x-ray, EKG, echocardiogram, or a sleep study before his surgery. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Prepare your child: Caregivers should explain to your child what will be done to him before, during, and after his surgery. They should let him know that he will have some pain after the surgery. They should teach him how to tell others about how much pain he has. Tell him he will be given medicine to reduce his pain and that drinking liquids will help reduce his pain.
  • Write down the date, time, and location of your child's surgery.

The night before surgery:

  • Ask caregivers what your child can and cannot eat before surgery. Ask when he has to stop eating and drinking.

The day of surgery:

  • Ask your child's caregiver before you give your child any medicine the day of surgery. This includes insulin, diabetic pills, or heart pills. Bring the pill bottles or a list of your child's medicines with you to the hospital.
  • Your child cannot wear contact lenses the day of surgery. He may wear glasses.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery on your child. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen during surgery:

  • Your child will have monitors attached to him to check his heart, breathing, and blood pressure during surgery. He will have an IV placed in his vein to give him medicine and fluids. Your child may be anxious before surgery. His caregiver will calm him and give him medicine called anesthesia to help him stay asleep during surgery. He will then gently place a tube in your child's throat to help him breathe, once he is asleep. Your child may also receive medicine to help numb his throat and mouth. Your child may receive antibiotic medicine to help prevent infection and fever. Steroid medicine may be given during surgery to help prevent nausea and reduce swelling and pain. This medicine may also help your child recover faster.
  • Your child's caregiver will use tools to keep your child's mouth open. These help him see your child's throat clearly. Your child's caregiver will then remove your child's tonsils. He may only need to remove part of your child's tonsils. Your child's caregiver will check your child's adenoids, and may remove them if they are large or infected. Your child's caregiver will treat and stop the bleeding in the areas where tissue was removed.

After surgery:

Your child will be taken to a recovery area where caregivers will watch him until he is alert. He may need to stay in the hospital overnight or longer if he is younger than 3 years, has sleep apnea or bad pain, or if he needs fluids.


  • You cannot get your child to his surgery on time.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • The reasons for your child's surgery get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's surgery.


  • 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.

Care Agreement

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Tonsillectomy In Children (Precare)

Micromedex® Care Notes