Surgery for enlarged tonsils or adenoids
Tonsil surgery can improve or get rid of breathing and sleep problems such as snoring or breathing pauses in children. But surgery isn’t always necessary.
Enlarged palatine tonsils can affect children's sleep. It is common for children who have enlarged palatine tonsils to have enlarged adenoids too. The palatine tonsils, often simply referred to as "tonsils," are the lumps of tissue you can see on the left and right sides at the back of your throat. Adenoids, also known as the pharyngeal tonsil, are found at the back of the nose. Children with these enlarged areas of tissue may snore all the time, mainly breathe through their mouth and even stop breathing for a few seconds at a time while sleeping (sleep ). This can disturb their sleep, making them feel tired and restless during the day. It can also affect their development. If enlarged tonsils or adenoids are having this effect, surgery might be considered.
There are various surgical approaches:
- Partial tonsillectomy (sometimes called tonsillotomy): Partial removal of the enlarged palatine tonsils.
- Total tonsillectomy: Complete removal of the palatine tonsils (rarely done nowadays when treating enlarged palatine tonsils).
If the child also has enlarged adenoids, they can be removed during the same operation. If only the adenoids are removed, it is called adenoidectomy. Sometimes enlarged adenoids lead to frequent middle ear infections with a build-up of fluid in the middle part of the ear (“glue ear”). Small ear tubes known as grommets can then be implanted during the operation too. This improves the exchange of air between the middle and outer ear.
If a child is having their tonsils completely removed (total tonsillectomy), they have to stay in hospital. The other operations can be done as a day procedure. But hospital stays are often recommended if the child is having surgery on their palatine tonsils and adenoids at the same time. Depending on how much care is needed after the surgery, the children stay in hospital for about 2 to 7 days.