Tonsils & Adenoids
What are Tonsils and Adenoids?
The tonsils and adenoids are lymphatic tissue similar to the lymph nodes found in the neck and other parts of the body. The tonsils are located on either side of the back of the throat and the adenoids are located behind the nose and roof of the mouth. Unlike tonsils, the adenoids are not easily visible through the mouth.
During the first few months of life, the tonsils and adenoids produce antibodies that may help the body’s immune system in its defense against incoming bacteria and viruses. Because the tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system, many people are concerned that removal of the tonsils and adenoids may impair their immune system function. While the logic behind this concern is obvious, evidence suggests that the importance of antibody production by the tonsils and adenoids diminishes rapidly during the first few months of life. Not only is there no evidence of decreased immune system function after tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, studies revealed that patients who have become prone to recurring infections of the tonsils and adenoids experienced significant improvement in terms of quality of life, and reduction in frequency of infection (up to a 90% reduction) after removal of the tonsils and adenoids
Indications for Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy
Recurring infection is only one of the indications for surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy). These procedures may be considered in the following situations:
- Recurrent or resistant tonsil and/or adenoid infections
- Enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids causing disturbances in breathing, sleeping, or swallowing. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are often associated with chronic mouth breathing, which in turn, can significantly affect facial growth and dental occlusion.
- Peritonsillar abscesses
- Persistent foul taste or bad breath, and/or sore throat due to chronic tonsillitis and/or tonsilloliths (yellowish-white debris in the depressions of tonsils) not responsive to medical therapy
- Children who are experiencing recurring ear infections and meet indications for ear tubes can, in some cases, benefit from removal of the adenoids simultaneously.
- Children with chronic rhinitis or sinusitis (nose or sinus infections) which are unresponsive to antibiotics, frequently have fewer infections after an adenoidectomy.
- Although rare, large tonsils, or significantly asymmetric tonsils, could be a concern for possible malignancy (cancer)
If any of these problems develop, it is important to consult an ENT doctor to discuss treatment options.
Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy is a simple operation generally done as an outpatient procedure. Dr. Bryan and Dr. Mettman, however, will have children less than three years of age spend the first night at the hospital for observation. Recovery after a tonsillectomy can take several days and may result in missed school and/or extracurricular activities. Please discuss travel restrictions in the post-op period with the ENT doctor.
There are a variety of effective techniques to remove the tonsils and adenoids. The technique used to remove the tonsils depends on the patient’s anatomy, history of prior infections or abscesses, and the underlying reason for the tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy.