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Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure performed with the aim of removing the tonsils. Tonsils are lymphoid organs. Consisting of different types of cells, they form part of the body's first line of defense against infection.

There are three types of tonsils in the mouth. Palatine tonsils are located on both sides of the pharynx below the soft palate. The pharyngeal tonsil is a single organ in the back wall of the pharynx. If the pharyngeal tonsil gets chronically inflamed and enlarged, it is called an adenoid. The lingual tonsil is made up of numerous small collections of lymphoid tissue, and is located at the base of the tongue.

Indications For Tonsillectomy

The nasal and oral cavities represent the entrance point for most viral and bacterial agents, so infections of the pharynx and surrounding structures are very common, especially during childhood. Tonsils are very active during that period, trying to prevent the infection from spread spreading to other organs, but if the tonsils also get affected by the infection, that condition is called tonsillitis.

Frequent reoccurrence of tonsillitis can make the tonsils oversensitive and enlarged, even to the extent where they start affecting breathing and swallowing. In these cases, performing a tonsillectomy is indicated. This mostly refers to removing only the palatine tonsils, given that they are the cause of the problem in most patients. Rarely, the pharyngeal tonsil needs to be removed too, which is called adenoidectomy.

Although this procedure is routinely performed, some scientists do not support it, because of the significant role the tonsils have during infections. Therefore, indications for tonsillectomy remain controversial, except for severe cases of pharyngeal obstruction where it needs to be performed.

Procedure

Before the procedure, it is necessary to perform basic blood tests, including electrolytes, prothrombin time, and clotting factors. As before every other surgery, the patient must not take aspirin or any other drugs that prevent clotting.

Tonsillectomy is an outpatient procedure, and the patient goes home the same day, unless some complications occur. It is performed under general anesthesia in children and under local or general anesthesia in adult patients. The palatine tonsils are carefully and completely removed by surgical incision during the procedure. Studies suggest that partial removal of the tonsils is not recommended, as the remaining parts of the tonsils can often regrow.

Complications are rare, and they include bleeding, postoperative infection, and soft tissue injury.

Recovery

A complete recovery from tonsillectomy usually takes 10-14 days. During the first few days, the patient can expect to have a very sore throat and a bad breath, which is the result of the wound-healing process. Oral analgesics can be used to control the pain.

After that, normal daily activities can be slowly introduced, including eating without restrictions. In case of the reappearance of pain and/or bleeding during the recovery period, please refer to your doctor, as those can be the signs of infection.

Although many doctors prescribe antibiotics after the procedure, scientific evidence from large randomized studies showed that there was no significant clinical benefit to using antibiotics during the postoperative period.

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