Tonsillectomy / Adenoidectomy

Tonsils & Adenoids
Your tonsils are the two masses on the back of the throat. Your adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth and are not visible through the mouth without special instruments. Both are near the entrance to the breathing passages where they can catch incoming germs and infections. Scientists believe they work as part of the body’s immune system by filtering germs that attempt to invade the body and also help develop antibodies to germs.

This happens primarily during the first few years of life and becomes less important as we get older. Children who must have their tonsils and adenoids removed suffer no loss in their resistance.

Problems that can occur:

Recurrent infections (throat or ear) and significant enlargement or obstruction that causes breathing and swallowing problems.
Abscesses around the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis, and infections that produce foul-smelling, cheese-like formations, making them sore and swollen.



What to Watch For

Tonsillitis Signs

An infection in one or both tonsils. Signs to watch for include:

  • Swelling of the tonsils
  • Redder than normal tonsils
  • A white or yellow coating on the tonsils
  • A slight voice change due to swelling
  • Sore throat
  • Uncomfortable or painful swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
  • Fever
  • Bad breath

More Signs

Additional signs to watch for:
  • Enlarged adenoids
  • Hard to breathe through the nose
  • Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose most of the time
  • Nose sounds "blocked" when the person speaks
  • Noisy breathing during the day
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Snoring at night
  • Breathing stops for a few seconds at night during snoring or loud breathing (sleep apnea)


Antibiotics are the first step in treating bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially streptococcus. Sometimes removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids may be recommended. Two main reasons leading to this step include recurrent infection despite antibiotic therapy and difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. In adults, the possibility of cancer or a tumor may be another reason for removing the tonsils and adenoids.