Something has changed about getting your tonsils out

Something has changed about getting your tonsils out

If your tonsils have been removed, you’re not alone. Tonsillectomies are one of the most commonly performed surgeries on American children – about 289,000 were performed on kids under age 15 in 2017.

“Children may need this procedure because they suffer from obstructive sleep-disordered breathing, obstructive sleep apnea, or recurrent throat infections,” says Dr. David Walner, director of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

Changes are coming to recovery from the popular procedure. The American Academy of Otolaryngology updated its guidelines just last month.

One major change? How pain is managed after surgery. The typical recovery time for this procedure is 10 to 14 days. Some children experience little to no pain after surgery and have an easy recovery process, while others experience significant pain. While a child’s pain obviously needs to be managed, the new guidelines specify that clinicians should not administer or prescribe codeine to children under the age of 12 who undergo a tonsillectomy.

Instead, Dr. Walner says the guidelines indicate that clinicians should explore other pain management options such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, with patients and their families.

“These new guidelines stress the importance of perioperative pain counseling to find the best pain management options for the patient,” says Dr. Walner, who was one of twelve physicians involved in updating the guidelines.

Additionally, the updated guidelines emphasize a watchful waiting approach rather than surgery for recurrent acute tonsillitis until children meet the criteria for the surgical procedure. For example, a child who has seven infections in one year or nine or ten infections in two or three years should be evaluated for potential surgery.

“Many kids do benefit from surgery due to suffering from recurrent infections, but they need to meet the criteria and have enough frequent infections to warrant the procedure,” says Dr. Walner, who has performed over 2,000 tonsillectomies over the last 20 years. “We don’t want to put children through surgery unless we know it’s going to improve their quality of life. The wait and see approach is something clinicians should discuss with parents before children undergo surgery.”

The updates to the guidelines allow for a dialogue between physicians and parents to determine the best treatment options for their child.

“These modifications were made to improve the quality of care for children undergoing tonsillectomies,” says Dr. Walner.

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  1. Hello my daughter is 5 years old and she has had reoccurring throat infections, her lymph nodes are swollen, she snores like a truck driver , she has bad breath , she complains of headaches and now she says her stomach is hurting. I took her to a ENT in nutley night and he wanted to remove her tonsils and adenoids but I’m scared my baby is only 5 if I opt out of that procedure will it have a dangerous affect on her ? Would you recommend I go ahead and have this procedure done?

  2. Colette Harris
    Colette Harris March 5, 2019 at 12:18 pm · Reply

    Thanks for reaching out. We’d recommend discussing with your primary care physician. You can always request a second opinion. Advocate Children’s Hospital offers appointments. Click here to find a doctor near you.

About the Author

Colette Harris
Colette Harris

Colette A. Harris, health enews contributor, is the public affairs and marketing coordinator at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Il. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and has nearly a decade of experience writing about health and wellness, which are her passions. When she’s not writing, you can find her practicing yoga, cooking, reading, or traveling.