Tonsillectomy is a treatment for tonsillitis that involves taking out your tonsils. 

Why it's needed

The main reason for having a tonsillectomy is if you get very bad sore throats that keep coming back. However, sometimes people have their tonsils taken out because of problems breathing whilst they are asleep (sleep apnoea) or suspected malignancy.

Removing the tonsils will stop you from getting tonsillitis again but it won’t stop you from getting other sore throats

What happens

You will have to discuss your health with the doctor and anaesthetist before the operation and discuss what will happen.

We ask all girls over the age of 12 whether there is any chance they might be pregnant. This is to protect babies in the womb from any damage during surgery.

You will be asked to wear a hospital gown and then you will be wheeled to the operating suite. You may have an intravenous line inserted (a drip) and you will have various monitoring equipment attached to you, so that the staff will be able to check that everything is alright during the operation.

You will be given a general anaesthetic (put to sleep) and will not be aware of the operation happening. The anaesthetist will stay with you throughout the operation to make sure that you have the right amount of anaesthetic and that your heart rate, blood pressure etc are all ok.

The surgeon will take out your tonsils through your mouth and will quickly cut them out and seal the blood vessels around them.

When you wake up:

  • you will most likely be in a recovery room
  • you may feel drowsy and sleepy
  • you may feel a bit sick
  • relax as much as you can
  • cough if you need to
  • ask the nurse for pain killers if you need them

How long will it take?

You will only have to be unconscious for around 20 minutes, it is very quick. At Great Ormond Street Hospital you will need to stay overnight so staff can keep an eye on you because of other medical issues. However, if you have a tonsillectomy at another hospital you may be able to leave after six hours.

Does it hurt?

During the operation you will not feel anything because of the anaesthetic; however, it will probably hurt after the operation. It will probably hurt for a week, maybe more. Taking regular pain relief for a week to 10 days after your tonsils come out is really important. It is also important to keep drinking and eating normally.

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Last review date:
January 2012