This guide is written by the Royal College of Anaesthetists. Used here with permission.
Tonsils are lymph glands, which fight infection and often become infected themselves. They are at the back of the mouth on each side.
You may be better off without them:
The operation is usually successful in removing or reducing these problems. Your surgeon will be able to tell you more about this.
Before your operation you will be asked some questions to check your health and to find out who can look after you at home.
The doctors and nurses should make sure you have all the information you need before you have your surgery. If you have questions before the day, please contact the day surgery unit.
The hospital will send you advice about the arrangements for your operation.
You will receive instructions about when to stop eating and drinking (fasting). It is important to follow these. If there is food or liquid in your stomach during your anaesthetic, it could come up into the back of your throat and damage your lungs.
When you arrive at the day unit, a nurse will welcome you and show you around. Your blood pressure, pulse and temperature will be measured. The surgeon and anaesthetist will come and talk to you before the operation. They will explain what is involved and answer your questions before asking you for your consent.
You will be asked to sign a consent form for the operation. Even after you have signed it, you can still decide that you do not wish to go ahead. You can have more information and more time to decide if you want. Nothing will happen to you until you understand and agree with what has been planned for you.
You will be asked to change into an operating gown and to wear an identity band.
Most people go to the anaesthetic room on a trolley. Sticky pads are used to attach monitoring leads on your chest (they do not hurt). Monitoring equipment is used to measure your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels in your blood.
The operation normally takes place under a general anaesthetic, which means you will be unconscious.
The anaesthetist usually does this by:
You can find more information in the separate leaflet ‘Anaesthesia Explained’.
It is possible to do this operation with a local anaesthetic but this is uncomfortable and rarely used.
The surgeon removes the tonsils through the mouth. The surgeon seals any bleeding areas that are left with localised high frequency electrical current or silk thread ties. If ties are used, these fall away after several days and do not need to be removed. The operation leaves raw areas where the tonsils were. These will heal over the next couple of weeks.
The anaesthetist may give you:
Pain relieving drugs may be given by:
You will regain consciousness in the recovery room. You will be breathing oxygen through a clear plastic mask. This is standard practice after surgery. Oxygen does not smell unpleasant. Recovery staff will be with you at all times and they will continue to monitor your blood pressure, oxygen levels and pulse rate.
You will be able to talk but there will be some pain, which will be similar to that of tonsillitis. You will be given more pain relieving drugs until you are comfortable.
You will gradually be able to sit up and then get up. You can have a drink and you may be allowed something light to eat. If you are in pain you will be offered further pain relief medicines before you go home.
You will receive further advice from the doctors and nurses about what to expect when you are at home. They will answer any questions that you may have. You can go home when you feel comfortable and when you and the hospital staff are satisfied with your recovery.
It is important that:
Occasionally, it is necessary to stay overnight because of drowsiness, vomiting or bleeding. Some day surgery units do not have overnight beds and you may be taken to a different hospital to stay overnight.
What to watch out for
The white appearance where the tonsils used to be is normal and does not mean that you have an infection. However, if you feel very unwell, have a fever (high temperature) or your breath becomes smelly, you may have an infection.
If these develop you should contact your GP. Alternatives are to go to your hospital emergency department, use a walk- in centre for advice and treatment or, in some hospitals, you may be given an emergency number for the ENT department.
Bleeding from the throat after you have left the hospital is not normal.
If there is bleeding, with more than very slight amounts of blood, you should go straight to your nearest hospital emergency department.
Tonsillectomy is usually successful in reducing infections or relieving breathing difficulties. Your surgeon will be able to tell you how successful he/she expects the operation to be for you.
Like all medical treatments there are some side effects and risks.
People vary in how they interpret words and numbers. This scale is provided to help:
|Very common||Common||Uncommon||Rare||Very rare|
|1 in 10||1 in 100||1 in 1,000||1 in 10,000||1 in 100,000|
It is up to you to decide whether to have the operation. Everyone varies in the risks they are willing to take. Your surgeon and anaesthetist will be able to talk to you about your individual risks.
21 Portland Place
London W1B 1PY
Phone: +44 20 7631 1650
Fax: +44 20 7631 4352
This organisation works to promote the development of anaesthesia and the welfare of anaesthetists and their patients in Great Britain and Ireland.
35 Red Lion Square
London, WC1R 4SG
Phone: + 44 20 7092 1500
Fax: + 44 20 7092 1730
This organisation is responsible for standards in anaesthesia, critical care and pain management throughout the UK.
c/o The Royal Colleges of Surgeons England
35–43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London WC2A 3PE
Tel: 020 7404 8373 Fax: 020 7404 4200 Website: www.entuk.org
The organisation of Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons in the UK
This guide was written by The Royal College of Anaesthetists, Churchill House, 35 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4SG.
© 2002, RCoA (3rd edition - May 2008). Copyright for this article is with the Royal College of Anaesthetists.