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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Tonsillectomy Overview

Written by FoundHealth.

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.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may:

  • Do a physical exam of the tonsils, throat, neck, and possibly other parts of the body
  • Order blood tests and perhaps a urine test
  • Review your medical history and current medicines

Leading up to your procedure:

  • Talk to your doctor about your current medicines. Certain medicines may need to be stopped before the procedure such as:
  • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs for up to one week before surgery
  • Blood-thinning drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix) or warfarin (Coumadin)
  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.


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

The anesthesia will be given through an IV or by a mask. The doctor will grasp each tonsil 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.

Tonsil Removal
Tonsil Removal
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

How Long Will It Take?

About 20-60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. After the procedure, you will find it difficult to swallow due to throat pain. You may also experience ear pain.

Your doctor will either give you pain medicine or recommend over-the-counter products to relieve pain.

Average Hospital Stay

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 patients may need to stay in the hospital for up to two days. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

  • You will be monitored for any negative reactions to anesthesia or other complications.
  • Once you are fully awake, alert, and stable, you may be able to leave. An adult should accompany you and drive you home.

At Home

When you return home, take the following steps to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
  • Take medicines that are prescribed as directed
  • Avoid talking, coughing, and singing for one week.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid spicy, acidic, and hard-to-digest foods.
  • Eat soft foods, such as gelatin and pudding, for 3-4 days after surgery. Gradually return to a normal diet.
  • Avoid swallowing hard items such as crackers and hard cookies. They may injure the back of your throat.
  • Bathe or shower as usual.



American Academy of Otolaryngology

National Library of Medicine


Canadian Family Physician

Health Canada


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: . Accessed July 21, 2009.

Jones P. A review of tonsillectomy to treat sore throats in children. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: . Updated April 2009. Accessed April 16, 2009.

Rothrock J. Alexander's Care of the Patient During Surgery. 11th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 1999.

4/16/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Burton MJ, Glasziou PP. Tonsillectomy or adeno-tonsillectomy versus non-surgical treatment for chronic/recurrent acute tonsillitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(1):CD001802.



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