What are tonsils and tonsillitis?
Tonsils are two oval lumps of tissue situated on either side, at the back of the throat to help the body fight infections from the age of 1-5 years, after which they are non-functional and become a source of infection in some individuals and results in tonsillitis.
What is tonsillectomy?
This is a surgery to remove the tonsils and is advised for those who have repeated and very severe attacks of infection of the tonsil, either bacterial or viral. When the tonsils are infected, they cause sore throat, pain and difficulty in swallowing, headache and fever. A tonsillectomy will be done only after the current infection is treated.
It is usually done under general anaesthesia. Prior to the surgery, you will be advised to fast for at least 6 hours. After surgery, the throat will be sore, jaws stiff and ears will ache. After about 12 hours, a whitish membrane will appear where the tonsils were. This is just new mucosa growing. It is usually advised not to go to public places for at least two weeks to avoid contact with people with cough, cold or other infections.
Latest methods of tonsillectomy
Laser assisted / co-ablation assisted tonsillectomy are contemporary technologies, with the advantage of less pain, lower risk of bleeding and quicker recovery.
When is tonsillectomy advised?
Tonsillectomy is advised when there is:
- More than 2-3 bouts of tonsillitis in the past year
- Difficulty in breathing or swallowing and this worsens with each bout
- Frequent ear infections
- Difficulty in sleeping or going to school or work
- To reduce snoring and sleep apnoea
Risks include the following but are not limited to these only:
- Bleeding: during surgery and anytime in the first two weeks after the surgery. Delayed bleeding may require readmission to the hospital to undergo another surgery to stop the bleeding.
- Burns from the equipment used to seal off bleeding areas during surgery
- Infection, which may be characterised by bad breath, worsening throat discomfort or delayed bleeding and may require antibiotics
- Throat pain of varying intensity for two weeks
- Injury to the teeth, lips, gums or tongue. There may be a temporary loss of taste.
- Abnormal scarring may occur causing narrowing or stenosis of the throat
- Sometimes, there is nasal speech and leakage of food / fluids through the nose, which settles down over time and is usually due to pain and restricted movement.
- Recurrence of symptoms
Post operative care
- Diet control: Though there are no clear cut contraindications, it is advisable to avoid spicy food for about a week after the surgery.
- It is advisable to start eating / drinking as soon as possible after the surgery since this will help tissues heal faster.
- Regular gargles to keep the tonsillar fossa healthy are recommended.