As parents, considering surgery for our children can be daunting. However, it is sometimes the best option. Such is the case when discussing tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for persistent infections or difficulty sleeping.
How Tonsils and Adenoids Function
Tonsils and adenoids are oval-shaped collections of lymphoid tissue that sit at the back of the throat. They function as part of the immune system recognizing foreign material as it enters the mouth and nose. This is most important for babies and less so for children and adults.
Two Problems Affecting the Tonsils and Adenoids
While both the tonsils and adenoids are helpful in early life, many children and young adults face problems living with their tonsils and adenoids. The two most significant problems are:
- Infection. Although tonsils adenoids are part of the immune system, they can harbor germs (most commonly strep) that cause recurrent infection and become part of the problem.
- Sleep apnea. Infection and genetics can cause adenoid and tonsil enlargement obstructing the airway. You may observe loud snoring and pauses in breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea can be a significant health and lifestyle problem due to low oxygen levels and difficulty with headaches, bedwetting, attention and behavior problems, and potentially heart and lung problems.
Removal of the Adenoids and/or Tonsils
Removal of tonsils or adenoids or both can remove a source of throat/sinus infection as well as obstruction. These operations are highly successful for properly chosen candidates. Recovery from tonsillectomy is usually difficult and takes a week or two and recovery from adenoidectomy is usually uneventful taking only a few days.
Tonsils and adenoids are often removed together. When tonsils need to be removed it adds little to the recovery to also remove the adenoids. If the adenoids are the main issue and tonsillectomy can be avoided, recovery will be easier.