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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What do I need to know about a tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove your tonsils. Tonsils are 2 large lumps of tissue in the back of your throat. Your tonsils may need to be removed if you have frequent throat infections or trouble breathing during sleep.

Adenoid and Tonsil Removal

How do I prepare for a tonsillectomy?

  • Your surgeon will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery.
  • Your surgeon will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. He or she will tell you to stop taking aspirin 2 weeks before your surgery.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home and stay with you after surgery.

What will happen during a tonsillectomy?

  • You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may also be given medicine before your surgery to help prevent nausea and vomiting.
  • The surgeon will place tools inside your mouth to keep it open. He or she will then cut all or part of your tonsils away from the surrounding tissue.
  • Your surgeon will then stop any bleeding from the areas where the tonsils were removed.

What should I expect after a tonsillectomy?

  • You will have throat pain that may last up to 2 weeks. Your throat pain will be worse in the morning and may spread to your ears. It may hurt to swallow. You may not feel like eating or drinking. Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
  • You will have white patches in the back of your throat. These are scabs that will fall off after about a week.

What are the risks of a tonsillectomy?

You may bleed more than expected during or after surgery, or get an infection. You may also have swelling in your mouth, throat, or lungs that makes it hard to breathe. You may have nausea and vomiting after surgery. You may have changes in your voice or sense of taste after surgery. Tools used to remove your tonsils may cause injury to your teeth, voice box, or palate. Tools that use heat or a laser to remove your tonsils can cause a burn. Your tonsils could grow back if only part of your tonsils were removed during surgery.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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