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by Chwistek M
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a tonsillectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before your tonsillectomy.

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 a urine test
  • Review your medical history and current medications
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:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs for up to one week before surgery
    • Blood-thinning drugs
    • Anti-platelet medications
  • 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
Grasping a Tonsil
Copyright © 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 medication 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.
  • After 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 medications 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

American College of Surgeons



Canadian Family Physician

Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery



Fact sheet: tonsils and adenoids postop. The American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: . Updated January 2011. Accessed July 23, 2013.

Tonsils and tonsillectomies. KidsHealth from Nemours website. Available at: . Updated May 2013. Accessed July 23, 2013.

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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