Tonsillectomies in Adults

I remember when I was a kid getting the feeling of a swollen throat, and soreness. I couldn’t swallow anything. Mom took me to the doctor, and he inserted that giant popsicle stick down my throat. He told me to say “Ahhh… ” and then the words came… Looks like your tonsils have to come out. It scared me to death. At the time, I was only 6 years old and the thought of going into the hospital terrified me.

My story comes from my childhood, however today; many adults are going through the procedure. This procedure is called a tonsillectomy.

Indication that you may need a Tonsillectomy

Not all doctors will prescribe a tonsillectomy. They will look for the following signs, and usually look for a more chronic condition. Here is a list of the symptoms of   Tonsillitis .

• Recurring Acute throat infections

• Chronic  tonsillitis  consisting of persistent, moderate to severe throat pain

• Sleep Apnea

• Difficulty eating or swallowing

• Have tonsil stones (also called tonsilloliths) at the back of the throat

• Abnormally large tonsils with crypts (craters or impacts in the tonsils)

What is the History of this procedure?

This procedure has been practiced for over 3,000 years. You will find it outlined in some books as “Hindu medicine” at about 1000B. Again about 1000 years later, Roman writing speaks about using the nail of the index finger to clean the tonsil. In about 100AD, they began using a surgical tool called a snare to actually remove the tonsil, but the writing also explains the biggest problem with this type of surgery, post-operative bleeding. This was a big deal at this period in early history because they did not practice the typical sterilizing procedures. It is not spoken of again for about 1200 years, until the early 1800’s when medicine began some semblance of actual science. A physician named Philip Syng Physick created the tonsil guillotine, which became the standard instrument for a tonsillectomy for over 80 years.

How do you get  Tonsillitis ?

It is theorized that infections requiring a tonsillectomy often result from streptococcus (strep throat). It may also result from other variations of bacteria. This is why most operations for this condition are done on children. Their immune systems are such that they are more prone to this virus.

After the operation

It will take about 2 weeks for you to recover from the operation. Sometimes it may take longer in adults. You will definitely find that you don’t want to swallow anything but you will need to. That is why they will feed you a strong diet of those childhood treats such as: popsicles, freezies, ice cream, frozen yogurt, puddings, slushies, sorbet, or just simple ice cubes.

Pain is common after the procedure, and as a result, you will recover in the hospital because they will be giving you narcotics to dull the pain. The hospital will avoid giving you any rough textured, spicy or acidic foods because these will usually irritate the area in your throat where the tonsils used to be.

The biggest issue that doctors deal with after this type of surgery is bleeding. The overall risk in bleeding is 1% – 2%. This number is higher in adults, especially if you are over 70. Cauterization of the wounds usually prevents bleeding, but in some cases, approximately 3%, some adult patients will develop excessive bleeding. If this happens then the surgeon will put you back under the knife to re-cauterize the wound in your throat.