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Department of Otolaryngology Health-Related Library

Instructions for a Tonsillectomy and/or Adenoidectomy

Tonsillectomies are performed on patients who have had recurrent attacks of tonsillitis, which begin as a severe sore throat associated with fever, headaches, chills and muscle pain. Tonsillitis is the inflamed condition of the tonsils due to infection. The adenoids are located high in the rear of the throat, behind the nasal cavity. Together, the tonsils and the adenoids form a ring of tissue that probably helps build an immunity to bacteria entering the throat area. The crypts and crevices of the tonsils and adenoids sometimes become filled with bacteria and old cells, which accumulate and cause infection and swelling. The tonsils and adenoids may become permanently so enlarged that they interfere with breathing and swallowing. It is not always necessary to remove both the tonsils and the adenoids; however, they often become infected together and are usually removed at the same time.

Postoperative Instructions

It is important that you begin taking fluids as soon as possible. The sooner you are able to take fluids, the sooner your throat soreness will go away. The usual hospital stay is one to two days because bleeding is the most common complication and usually occurs within the first 24 hours post-op. You may experience some ear pain after surgery around the fifth to seventh day.

Discharge Instructions

  1. Notify the doctor immediately of a fever above 100 degrees F, any difficulty in breathing or swallowing, or any excessive bleeding. To contact a resident on call, dial 626-3000, or call the ENT Clinic at 626-5900.
  2. Eat soft foods, avoid acid-type fluids such as orange juice, pineapple juice, etc., as these things will irritate your throat. It is important to drink plenty of fluids during your recovery period.
  3. Chew gum as much as possible during the first few days after surgery.
  4. Two white patches will form where the tonsils were removed; do not be alarmed if you see them in the mirror. This is normal, similar to scabs on the outside of the body. On the 10th to 14th day the scabs will come off. You may see some blood in your mucous/saliva at that time. If the bleeding does not stop or increases, notify your doctor immediately. Most people have some pain in the ears for several days after the operation. This is usually controlled by the use of Tylenol but does not mean there is an ear infection.