Tonsillectomy Surgery Procedure & Complications
Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure to remove infected or inflamed tonsils. Tonsils are lymph nodes or pads of immune tissue that are located at the back of the throat. They play a key role in filtering bacteria and other germs and keeping infections at bay. However, they eventually lose their functionality and become prone to getting infected. In moderate cases of inflamed or infected tonsils, medical management is considered just enough. However, in severe cases, complete removal of tonsils becomes necessary.
Tonsillectomy surgery is also requisite for people who experience recurrent and severe tonsil infections. This surgery aims to improve the quality of life of people who experience these infections often and find it difficult to manage them. After this surgery, the patients don't just get a respite from these infections but also experience pain relief and better breathing ability.
When Is Tonsillectomy Surgery Needed?
In most cases, tonsils don't demand attention and perform their daily functions. They are usually the first line of defense against bacteria and other viruses and keep your body safeguarded against infections.
But, tonsils too stand the risk of getting infected. Tonsillitis is quite common, and usually affects kids. In most cases, this condition is easily manageable and doesn't require surgery. However, in some cases, the infection becomes severe. In such cases, tonsillectomy causes symptoms that can't be managed with medicines. In such cases, surgery becomes important. Here are some cases in which tonsillectomy becomes absolutely crucial:
1) A doctor will suggest surgery for tonsil removal if your tonsillitis occurs:
- 7 times in 1 year
- 5 times a year for 2 years in a row, or
- 3 times a year for 3 years in a row
2) You have breathing issues due to swollen/enlarged tonsils
3) You have an airway obstruction that’s causing frequent and loud snoring.
4) Sleep Apnea i.e., difficulty breathing during sleep caused by swollen tonsils
5) Bleeding of the tonsils or blood vessels around the tonsils
6) Tonsil stones
In addition, tonsillitis can cause the following symptoms that you must keep an eye out for:
- Red, swollen tonsils.
- Sore throat
- White or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils
- Difficulty or pain while swallowing.
- Muffled or throaty voice.
- Recurrent Fever
- Bad breath
If you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, get in touch with an ENT specialist in time, and get the condition diagnosed and treated before it worsens.
What Happens During Tonsillectomy Surgery?
As in the case of any other surgery, the doctors first assess the extent of the condition by carrying out a thorough diagnostic evaluation. They perform various lab tests to examine the severity of the condition and ensure that surgery is actually essential. So, before tonsillectomy, the doctors generally perform the following tests:
Physical Examination: In a physical examination, the doctors inspect the throat to rule out any suspicious growths, nodules, rashes, or other abnormalities. They look for redness, swelling, or pus in the tonsils that can indicate an infection. They also palpate the neck lymph nodes to check if they’re infected. Additionally, the doctor assesses the sound of your breath to check whether the infection has spread to the lungs.
Throat Swab: In this test, the ENT specialist uses a clean and sterilized swab to take a sample of the throat discharge. The sample is then sent for lab culture. This test helps the doctor identify the pathogen that might have caused the infection. In case the patient has other infections such as sinusitis, pulmonary infection, etc the doctor will also take samples from the nose and larynx.
Additionally, in severe cases of tonsillitis, the patient might have to appear for other diagnostic tests as well, such as CBC (Complete Blood Count), X-ray, CT scan, etc.
Tonsillectomy- Types & Treatment Process
Based on the diagnosis and severity of tonsillitis, the doctor might suggest tonsillectomy surgery. It’s upon the doctor to decide the type of surgery to be performed. Generally, there are five types of tonsillectomy surgeries:
- Radiofrequency tonsillectomy
This procedure is also known as radiofrequency tonsil ablation. In this procedure, the tonsils are extracted with the help of a focused, high-energy radiofrequency beam.
- Coblation Tonsillectomy:
In this method, the surgeon uses a coblation wand and dissolves the tonsil tissue with radiofrequency energy and a saline solution. Also, the surgeons make sure that the surrounding tissue isn't damaged in the process.
- Electrocautery or cauterization tonsillectomy
This is the most conventional tonsillectomy procedure of tonsil removal and involves extraction of the inflamed tonsils using low-energy electrocautery.
- Harmonic scalpel tonsillectomy
In this tonsillectomy procedure, the surgeon uses a harmonic scalpel to cut the inflamed tonsils through vibration energy. The instrument produces heat and friction, which causes protein denaturation and dissection of the tonsils.
- Cold knife dissection tonsillectomy
This is the traditional open surgery for tonsil removal. In this procedure, the surgeon uses a cold or sharp knife to cut the tonsils and their capsules.
How To Prepare For Tonsillectomy Surgery?
Being prepared for the surgery allows the patient to get ready for the procedure, and avoid potential risks and complications. Before tonsillectomy, the doctor will give you some instructions to prepare for the surgery that will minimize the risk of complications:
- The patients appearing for the tonsillectomy procedure should avoid taking aspirin or medicines containing aspirin, a week before the surgery. This helps in minimizing the risk of bleeding. Also, avoid taking nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or advil as well.
- Discuss the procedure with the doctor, and get all your questions answered. If your child is getting the surgery, make sure you get him/her well-versed with the entire procedure. This will help keep your little one calm during the procedure.
- Avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 6 hours before the procedure. This can lead to complications and may also interfere with the effect of anesthesia.
- Make sure you have an attendant with you.
How To Recover After Tonsillectomy?
The total recovery period after tonsillectomy is about 2 to 3 weeks. During this period, your doctor will ask you to take some measures that will ensure a speedy recovery.
Listed below are some tonsillectomy caretips that will help you recover quickly:
Take Proper Rest: Taking proper rest after tonsillectomy is key to a quick recovery. Do not strain your throat, and avoid speaking too loudly. Don’t indulge in strenuous activities that can strain the surgical site. This can cause swelling and may delay your recovery.
Take Your Medicines On Time: Your doctor will prescribe some medicines after the surgery. Make sure you take all the medicines on time.
Eat Well: Include soft and healthy food in your diet. Most doctors suggest yogurt, broth, mashed potatoes, ice cream, scrambled eggs, pudding, etc., as these foods soothe the throat and promote a speedy recovery.
Drink Plenty of Fluids: Consuming ample fluids prevents dehydration. It also prevents swelling in the surgical area.
Promote Healing With Ice Pack: Use an ice pack 2 to 3 times a day to promote healing.
Avoid Traveling: Most doctors ask patients to avoid traveling for at least 2 weeks after the surgery. This reduces the risk of complications.
Don’t Miss Follow-Up Sessions: Make sure that you visit the ENT surgeon for follow-up sessions in time to avoid postoperative complications.
Follow these tonsillectomy care tips to see the best results.
What Are The Benefits Of Tonsillectomy?
The benefits of tonsillectomy are manifold. Here are some common benefits of getting your tonsils extracted:
Reduced Risk Of Infections: Tonsils can easily get infected. Infected tonsils then pass on the infection to the rest of the body. This can lead to further complications such as sinusitis, sore throat, adenoiditis, pulmonary infections, etc. Therefore, getting tonsil removal surgery helps prevent g the infection from spreading and recurring.
Better Sleep: Inflamed or infected tonsils can lead to breathing problems and throat obstruction, which can result in conditions such as sleep apnea. This condition can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause tiredness, mood swings, etc. Tonsillectomy helps prevent sleep apnea by preventing breathing issues and lets you sleep better.
Reduced need for medicine: Infected tonsils lead to recurring infections in the body and increase the intake of prescription medicines such as antibiotics. This surgery helps reduce the risk of infections and thereby reduces the intake of these medicines. It also improves your body’s immune response.
Enhanced Quality Of Life: Tonsillitis can be quite distressing, thanks to the pain and discomfort it accompanies. It can adversely affect your day-to-day tasks such as speaking, breathing, eating, etc. Tonsillectomy helps treat all these issues and improves your quality of life in general.