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.

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. The decision depends on the problems the tonsils are causing your child.

During the operation, the tonsils are removed through the mouth. The wound where the tonsil used to be is left open, and the bleeding is normally small. The child is very tired after the operation and needs to sleep.

When are the adenoids behind the nose operated on?

In cases where children are operated on because their tonsils are enlarged, the size of their adenoids (the glands behind the nose) is also considered. If the adenoids are enlarged, they are also removed. This additional operation doesn’t cause the child very much extra discomfort.

Can I, as a close family member or friend, be present?

A parent/close family member or friend may accompany the child into the operating room and stay with the child until he/she has fallen asleep. After the operation, the child will be taken to the recovery room where the parent/close family member or friend can be present.

Are there any risks involved with the operation?

  • There’s always a risk involved when an anaesthetic is used, but it is small and all care is taken to make sure that the operation is as safe as possible.
  • Unfortunately, a few patients do 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. Don’t wait—always contact health care service if there is bleeding!
  • The throat should never bleed once the child has arrived home after the operation. If you notice any bleeding, you must contact the health care service 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 are a sign of healing. These layers can smell bad and can cause bad breath. The layers start to disappear after approximately 7–10 days. There is a risk of bleeding until the wounds are fully healed; this can take up to three weeks.
  • The child may have a slight fever the first day, but this is quite normal. If the child is affected by the fever, you should contact the health care services.
  • If the painkillers aren’t sufficient, there’s a risk tha the child isn’t drinking enough. In that case, contact health care service.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already been given a date for your child’s operation, you will be notified by post, telephone or e-mail. You and your child may have the opportunity to visit the clinic in advance in order to get used to the hospital environment and not find it so overwhelming or intimidating.

What do I do if my child gets tonsillitis?

If your child becomes sick, for example has a sore throat or a cold, we kindly ask you to call the telephone number given in the notification you received about the operation date. Your child’s operation may need to be postponed.

What’s important to think about before the operation?

About 14 days before the operation, the child shouldn’t take any painkillers or antipyretic (fever reducing) drugs that contain acetylsalicyclic acid (such as Magnecyl, Bamyl, Treo) or Ibuprofen (such as Ipren) and Trombyl. These drugs can give an increased risk for bleeding during the operation. If some form of pain relief is required, use paracetamol instead (such as Alvedon, Panodil, Curadon) during this period.

The child is allowed to eat up until six hours before the operation. After that, the child is allowed to drink clear liquids up until 2 hours before the operation and nothing more after that. Clear liquids are defined as water, clear cordials/fruit juices without pulp. The liquid must not contain fat and not normal milk, powder milk, gruel or pablum.

Shower and wash the child’s hair the evening before the operation or on the morning 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, remove all items from the mouth and all jewellery, removable brace, piercings, earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces, wrist-watch and contact lenses.

What happens on the day of the operation?

Before the anaesthetic is administered, your child undergoes a medical check-up. This is to see that your child is in good shape for the operation. You’ll receive information about what to expect from the day and how your child will feel after the operation.

When can my child go home?

Your child is allowed to go home the same day as the operation or the day after, depending on the routines at your hospital. The child is discharged when he/she has had something to eat and drink and feels well enough. The nursing staff decides when the child can go home. Even if only one parent/close family member or friend can be with the child at the hospital, if you’re travelling home with your own car, it is important that an adult sits with the child while another adult drives the car.