by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
The tonsils are glands in the back of the throat. A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Tonsillectomy is most often done when other nonsurgical treatments have not worked for:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before your tonsillectomy.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may:
Leading up to your procedure:
General anesthesia is most commonly used. You will be asleep for the procedure. If necessary, the surgery can also be done with sedation and local anesthesia.
Description of the Procedure TOP
Each tonsil will be grasped with a special tool. The tonsils will then be cut away from the surrounding tissues and removed. The tonsils may be cut out with a scalpel or hot knife. An electrical current or clamps and ties will be used to stop bleeding at the site.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 20-60 minutes
Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
This procedure is most often done in a hospital setting. It may be possible to leave the hospital on the day of the procedure. Some people may need to stay in the hospital for up to 2 days. You may need to stay longer if there are complications.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
To help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Otolaryngology
American College of Surgeons
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Tonsillectomy and adenoids postop. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
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Updated 2015. Accessed June 20, 2016.
Tonsils and tonsillectomies. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
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Updated May 2013. Accessed June 20, 2016.
4/16/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Burton MJ, Glasziou PP. Tonsillectomy or adeno-tonsillectomy versus non-surgical treatment for chronic/recurrent acute tonsillitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(1):CD001802.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013
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