If you or your child repeatedly develops tonsillitis over a long period, or if the episodes of tonsillitis are disabling and are disrupting normal activities you may want to consider a tonsillectomy.

What happens?

A tonsillectomy is done under a general anaesthetic, which means that you will be asleep during the procedure. Your mouth will be held open to allow the surgeon to see your tonsils. They will cut or peel the tonsils away from the layer of muscle underneath them or use heat to remove the tonsils and cauterise (stop the bleeding) in the area.

You should be able to go home the day after your surgery or sometimes a tonsillectomy is done as a day case (no overnight stay in hospital). After surgery it is likely that you will experience some pain at the site of the surgery. This can last for up to a week. Painkillers can help relieve the pain.

Children who have had a tonsillectomy should be kept off school for two weeks. This is to reduce the chance of them picking up an infection from another child that will make them feel more uncomfortable.

You will probably find swallowing difficult after a tonsillectomy, but it is important that you eat solid foods as this will help the throat to heal more quickly. You should drink plenty of fluids but avoid acidic drinks, such as orange juice, as they will sting.

The pain usually gets worse during the first week after the operation and gradually improves during the second week. Earache is common with tonsillectomies and is no cause for concern.

What are the risks?

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following a tonsillectomy. As with any surgery there can be complications:

• Pain
• Bleeding
• Infection in the surgical wounds

Specific complications of a tonsillectomy can include:

• Small pieces of the tonsils left behind
• Lingual tonsillitis (tonsils hidden behind the tongue)

Your surgeon will be able to explain how any risks might apply to you or your child.