Abnormal enlargement of the tonsils can produce breathing and swallowing difficulties. A tonsillectomy refers to a surgical procedure in which the tonsils are removed. This is usually performed due to reoccurring inflammations and enlargement of the tonsils (tonsillitis). It is one of the most commonly performed surgeries, especially in children. A conventional tonsillectomy is performed under general anesthesia. Like every other surgical procedure, a tonsillectomy also has a recovery period, ranging from 10 days to few weeks after surgery.
Common Postoperative Complaints
Sore throat is the most pronounced complaint during the whole postoperative period. It starts right after the anesthesia and it can last for up to two weeks. This pain can be managed using analgesics, such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and opioid analgesics in cases with severe pain. Be careful with dosages of analgesics as some of them can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if overdosed. The severity of pain varies from person to person, but it has been noticed that children bear the pain more easily than adults.
During the first postoperative week, patients are advised to eat only soft food including eggs, yoghurt, soft fruits, softened cereals, etc. Use of salt should be lowered as it can dry the mouth and pharynx and slow down wound healing. On the other hand, it is not advised to completely eliminate salt because of the need for proper hydration. Patients should drink more fluids after tonsillectomy as hydration promotes recovery and decreases the risk of complications.
Good oral hygiene is a must during both early and late postoperative management. As soon as you start eating, you should brush your teeth after every meal to decrease risk of infection.
Let's mention some postoperative complications that can prolong the recovery from tonsillectomy.
A major postoperative complication which can occur after a tonsillectomy is bleeding from the wound. Although wounds in the pharynx and mouth generally heal fast, bleeding is possible and it can appear up to three weeks after surgery. A small amount of reddish saliva is common and is expected to disappear spontaneously, but if you notice a larger amount of blood, please revisit your surgeon to check the wound. It is not recommended to travel to areas far away from your hospital for three weeks after surgery, because there is still a small risk of bleeding.
During the operation and during the early postoperative period, there is a risk of complications related to general anesthesia, but they are very rare nowadays.
Wound infection is not common after tonsillectomy, although it can occur. In case of prolonged recovery, bad breath, and increased body temperature, the possibility of infection should be considered. These infections are mostly caused by bacteria, so antibiotic treatment is necessary.
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