A surgeon examines a pediatric tonsillectomy patient

Tonsils are clumps of tissue on both sides of the throat that help fight infections. If your child has had frequent episodes of tonsillitis (an inflammation of the tonsils), strep throat, or has difficulty swallowing or sleeping due to swollen tonsils, a tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils) may be recommended. Nemours Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons are highly experienced in pediatric tonsillectomies and use the latest techniques and procedures tailored to your child's individualized needs.

Read More About Pediatric Tonsillectomies

Your child will receive general anesthesia during the tonsillectomy. This means the surgery will be performed in an operating room so that an anesthesiologist can monitor your child. A pediatric tonsillectomy procedure usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes and most kids go home on the same day, though some may require observation overnight.

Depending on the surgical technique, the typical tonsillectomy recovery may take several days to a week or more. Expect some pain and discomfort due to the exposure of the throat muscles after the tonsils are removed. This can affect your child's ability to eat and drink and return to normal activities.

At Nemours, we’ll do our best to thoroughly explain the procedure your child is having and we encourage you to share any questions or concerns you may have about pediatric tonsillectomy surgery.

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What to Bring
  • photo ID
  • medical and pharmacy insurance cards
  • preferred pharmacy name and phone number
  • names and dosage of all medications, including over-the-counter medication, your child is currently taking
  • guardianship and custody papers, if a legal guardian rather than a parent accompanies your child
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Although a pediatric tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils) is a fairly common procedure, we know that any kind of surgery can come with some worry and fear — from both you and your child. At Nemours Children's Specialty Care, Orlando we also recognize that a tonsillectomy for children is very different from surgery for adults. That's why our Nemours surgical teams include highly trained pediatric specialists — anesthesiologists, surgeons, surgical nurse practitioners, and nurses — who understand both the physical and emotional needs of a child who is getting an operation.

Nemours Ear, Nose and Throat doctors, called otolaryngologists, are board-certified ENT surgeons who are highly skilled in the latest surgery techniques and procedures. They have performed hundreds of tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies (surgical removal of the adenoids) and will take the time to explain your child’s procedure and answer all your questions. Knowing what to expect can help ease the stress and make things much easier for everyone in your family.

Why Your Child May Need a Tonsillectomy and/or Adenoidectomy

Tonsils are the fleshy clusters of tissue on both sides of the back of the throat that help fight off germs that enter the body through the mouth. Tonsils can become infected (tonsillitis) and when you look down your child's throat with a flashlight, you may see red or swollen tonsils that may have a white or yellow coating on them. Tonsillitis symptoms include a sore throat, fever, swollen glands in the neck, and trouble swallowing.

Adenoids are a mass of tissue in the passage that connects the back of the nasal cavity to the throat and help to control bacteria and viruses that enter through the nose. Although you can see the tonsils at the back of the throat, adenoids aren't directly visible.

In some cases, your child may have enlarged tonsils or adenoids, causing loud snoring, upper airway obstruction, and other sleep disorders.

Doctors might recommend a tonsillectomy for a child who has one or more of the following:
  • persistent or recurrent tonsillitis or strep infections
  • swollen tonsils that make it hard to breathe, particularly during sleep
  • difficulty eating meat or chewy foods
  • sleep difficulty that might be affecting the child's daily activities

Often, tonsils and adenoids are surgically removed at the same time. This is called a T&A or tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. 

What to Expect During a Pediatric Tonsillectomy
Pediatric tonsillectomy surgery, no matter how common or simple the procedure, is often frightening for kids and parents, so it's good to know what to expect:
  • Tonsillectomies are performed in a hospital operating room or outpatient surgical suite.
  • During the tonsillectomy, your child will receive general anesthesia. A pediatric anesthesiologist will talk with you about the best types of anesthesia medicine to make sure your child is comfortable and will monitor your child throughout the procedure.
  • The operation usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • The surgeon can get to the tonsils through your child's open mouth — there's no need to cut through skin.
  • Your child will wake up in the recovery area and you can expect to spend about 5 hours or a bit longer at the hospital. Most kids go home on the same day, though some may require observation overnight.
  • In general, kids under 3 years old and those with chronic disease will usually stay overnight for observation. Rarely, children may show signs of bleeding, which would require a return to the operating room.
  • In terms of tonsillectomy recovery, it may take several days to a week or more for your child to recuperate fully. There may be some pain and discomfort following the surgery that can affect your child's ability to eat and drink and return to normal activities.