Tonsils & Adenoids
Millions of children are evaluated yearly for large tonsils and adenoids, which can cause problems ranging from obstructive sleep apnea to recurrent throat infections and even ear infections. Symptoms usually include snoring and loud or open-mouthed breathing, restless sleep, and pauses in breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness and crankiness. Sleep apnea may also lead to hyperactivity. In fact, many children diagnosed with behavioral disorders such as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may actually have obstructive sleep apnea.
Tonsils and adenoids are masses of tissue that are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin, and armpits. Tonsils are the two masses on the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth without special instruments.
The most common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids are recurrent infections of the throat and/or ear and significant enlargement that typically cause breathing and/or swallowing problems. You should see your doctor when your child suffers the common symptoms of infected or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially those caused by streptococcus, are first treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids may be recommended. The two primary reasons for tonsil and/or adenoid removal are:
- Recurrent infection despite antibiotic therapy, and
- Difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids.
Surgery for Tonsils and Adenoids
If your surgeon recommends removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids, the surgery can be done safely and effectively as an outpatient procedure at the Virginia Ear, Nose & Throat Surgery Center or a local hospital. To minimize the discomfort of this procedure, our doctors perform the most up-to-date technique for removing the tonsils, referred to as Coblation tonsillectomy. While still a challenging recovery, Coblation minimizes discomfort, and improves healing time and makes the experience more tolerable.
In preparing for the surgery, talk to your child about his/her feelings and provide strong reassurance and support throughout the process. Encourage the idea that the procedure will make him/her healthier. Be with your child as much as possible before and after the surgery. Tell him/her to expect a sore throat after surgery. Reassure your child that the operation does not remove any important parts of the body, and that he/she will not look any different afterward. If your child has a friend who has had this surgery, it may be helpful to talk about it with the friend.
There are several postoperative symptoms that may arise. These include, but are not limited to:
- Swallowing problems
- Throat pain and ear pain
Occasionally, bleeding may occur after surgery. If the patient has any bleeding, you should notify the surgeon immediately. In addition, any questions or concerns before or after the surgery should be discussed with the surgeon.