Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils which are lymphoid tissues situated at the back of the throat. It is recommended when the patient has repeated tonsillitis, enlarged tonsils, suspicion of tumour or peritonsillar abscess. The surgeon would only advise for tonsillectomy when the benefits of the procedure outweigh the possible risks and complications. Tonsillectomy is performed under general anaesthesia via trans-oral approach; that is through the mouth opening.
Typical appearance of the back of the throat three days post tonsillectomy

Bleeding- the tonsil area has a rich blood supply and care is taken to stop any bleeding intraoperatively. The risk of bleeding after tonsillectomy is very low and usually present with blood stained saliva. On rare occasions the bleeding can be severe and have to be managed in the operating theatre. Risk of bleeding is higher when there is infection.

Infection- it is a potential risk especially in patients with inadequate food and fluid intake after tonsillectomy. Patients with infection post tonsillectomy will have symptoms of severe throat pain and bleeding. Treatment is mainly antibiotics and may require re-admission.

Injury to lip/mouth- instruments are inserted to help open up the mouth during surgery. There is a small risk of injury to lip, mouth or teeth during this procedure.

  • Pain post tonsillectomy can be severe and lasts up to 2 weeks. However in children the recovery is much faster usually within 1 week. Sometimes the pain can get worse between 3 to 5 days after the surgery before it gets better. Patients are advised to take their painkiller medication regularly.
  • Swallowing can be difficult after surgery because of the pain. However patients are encouraged to drink and eat as soon as they wake up after surgery. It may be easier to take cold fluids and soft food initially. Taking small sips of fluids may be easier than big swallows. Avoid taking any spicy or hot food to reduce risk of bleeding. Eating well would also lead to better and faster healing of the operated area.
  • Avoid going out to public places. Patients are advised to rest at home for about 1-2 weeks. This can prevent exposure to infection.
  • Small amounts of blood stained saliva can be normal in the first 2 weeks and can be stopped with ice gargles. However if bleeding is continuous and increasing in amount, do seek immediate medical attention at the hospital where the surgery was performed.
Printable patient leaflet

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