Sunday, 11 September 2011

Should the tonsils be removed?

The above question is often heard during consultation at the ENT clinic. The patient goes through a rollercoaster of thoughts when their doctor suggests an operation. What more when a parent has to make the decision on behalf of their child.

What are tonsils?

Tonsils are lymphoid tissues at the back of the throat which form a part of the immune system. It grows rapidly between the ages 2 to 6 years and then slowly regress with age. However it is not unusual for tonsils to get infected resulting in a condition called tonsillitis with symptoms of severe sore throat and fever.

When is tonsillectomy advised?
Common indications include
       Recurrent or Chronic tonsillitis; more than 3-5 episodes in a year
       Enlarged tonsils causing airway obstruction or snoring
       Suspicion of tumour; ulcerated tonsils or unilateral tonsil enlargement
       Peritonsillar abscess

How is tonsillectomy performed?
The patient is given general anaesthesia and the tonsils are removed via the mouth. At times other procedures are also indicated such as adenoidectomy depending on the patient's history and ENT examination.
Complications associated with tonsillectomy is minimal. Patients are informed of pain on swallowing and advised to take soft cold diet immediately after surgery. And return to normal diet till healing is complete. This normally takes about 7-10 days. Patients are also informed about the possibility of post tonsillectomy bleeding.

Tonsillectomy is a simple operative procedure. What is more important is the correct selection of patients. The immune function is not affected after tonsillectomy as there are other lymphoid tissue in the throat area.

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