Common questions about tonsil surgery

The tonsils are a part of the body’s immune system. They are located on either side of the throat and are made up of lymphatic tissue. There’s no evidence to suggest that tonsil surgery can affect the risk of developing infections further down in the airways later on.

How is the operation performed?

Tonsil surgery is a quick surgical procedure that’s performed under anaesthetic. During the operation, the tonsils are removed through the mouth. The operation can be performed in two ways: Either the whole tonsil is removed, which is most common in the event of repeated throat infections, or only the protruding parts that block the airway are removed. The ear, nose and throat (Otolaryngology) doctor who’ll perform the operation decides which surgical procedure is best suited to you. The decision depends on the problems your tonsils are causing you. There’s usually only a small amount of bleeding, but any bleeding is carefully stopped during the operation.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already been given a date for the operation, at the same time that you received this information, you’ll receive notification of this by post, telephone or e-mail.

What’s important to think about before the operation?

From 14 days before the operation, you shouldn’t take any painkillers or antipyretics that contain acetylsalicyclic acid (such as Asprin, Magnecyl, Bamyl, Treo) or Ibuprofen (such as Ipren) and Trombyl. These drugs can result in an increased risk of bleeding during the operation. Ask your doctor if you’re unclear about anything concerning your medication. If some form of pain relief is required, use paracetamol instead (such as Alvedon, Panodil) during this period.

You’re allowed to eat up until six hours before the operation. After that, you’re allowed to drink clear liquids up until 2 hours before the operation and nothing more after that. Clear liquids are defined as water, tea, coffee, clear cordials/fruit juices without pulp. The liquid must not contain fat and not normal milk or powder milk. You must not chew chewing gum or use any form of tobacco during the last 2 hours before the anaesthetic.

Shower and wash your hair the evening before the operation or in the morning of the day of the operation. Don’t use any make-up, perfume or nail polish on the day of the operation. On the day of the operation, take off all jewellery and remove everything on your body such as all piercings, earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces and wrist-watch as well as items from your mouth, such as removable braces, piercings and rings. All foreign objects, in, on or through the body can harbour bacteria or viruses that can cause big problems when you’ve been operated on. You just don’t want to risk it! (All the medical personnel also remove all their jewellery and watches and such before every operation.)

What do you do if you become sick during the days before surgery?

If you become sick, such as a sore throat or a cold, we kindly ask you to call the telephone number indicated in the notification you received about the operation date. Your operation may need to be postponed.

Are there any risks involved with the operation?

  • There’s always a risk involved with surgery and when an anaesthetic is used, but it’s minor and all care is taken to make sure that the operation is as safe as possible.
  • A few patients do unfortunately experience bleeding after having their tonsils removed. This bleeding most often stops by itself. Sometimes, the patient may need to return to the operating room in order to have the bleeding stopped under anaesthetic.
  • The throat should never bleed once you’ve arrived home after the operation. If you notice any bleeding, you must contact health care services immediately.
  • There are wounds where the tonsils used to be and on these wounds grey-white layers form, that are the mucous membrane’s equivalent of scabs on the skin and a sign of healing. These layers can smell bad and can cause bad breath. The layers start to disappear after approximately 7-10 days. The risk of bleeding exists up until the wounds are fully healed, which can take up to three weeks.
  • You may have a slight fever the first day, but this is quite normal. If you’re affected by the fever, you should contact the health care services.
  • If you find that the painkillers aren’t sufficient and that you’re having difficulty drinking enough liquid, you should contact the health care services.