Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system and are situated at the back of the throat. The main function of the tonsils is to produce antibodies which fight infection. After the age of three, tonsils shrink and its importance as an organ for fighting against infection decreases. Tonsils which play an effective role against infection in the childhood can get infected. This infection may cause swelling resulting in severe pain and difficulty in swallowing. If tonsils are too large or if the tonsillitis is a recurring one, your surgeon may suggest surgical removal of the tonsils. If conventional treatment options like medication is not yielding any satisfactory results to the problems faced by tonsillitis and if your tonsils have developed a quinsy which is an abscess that has grown alongside the tonsils, then the removal of tonsils becomes unavoidable. The surgery conducted to remove the tonsils is popularly known as tonsillectomy.
Tonsillectomy is usually performed under general anesthesia. No incisions need be made on the skin for conducting this surgery. Mouth of the patient is held open so that the surgeon can clearly visualize the tonsils of the patient. This surgery can be carried out in different ways. All of them are explained below.
1) Cold steel surgery: In this method a surgical blade is used to cut the tonsils. Bleeding is controlled by applying heat through diathermy or by applying pressure.
2) Diathermy: In this method the tissues surrounding the tonsils are removed by using a diathermy probe. The heat from the diathermy also helps to control the bleeding.
3) Coblation (Cold ablation): This procedure is similar to diathermy but is carried out at a lower temperature like 60°C
4) Lasers: High energy laser beams are made use of in this method to cut the tonsils and to control the bleeding.
All these methods are similar and its usefulness in terms of safety and results are also equal. So the selection of the best method matching to each patient is very much dependent on the surgeon’s personal choices and his expertise.
After the surgery
After the surgery the patient may normally feel pain for a few weeks. Pain killers can be made use of to relieve the pain. Children who had undergone a tonsillectomy may not be sent to school for a period two weeks to avoid the possibility of getting infected. Even swallowing may be difficult for a few days. But the patient will be encouraged to swallow and eat food as this will speed up the healing process. Using mouth wash and brushing your teeth properly can help to reduce the possibility of infection in the mouth.
Bleeding at the site of operation is a usual complication that is accompanied in a tonsillectomy. Gargling with cold water is an easy and most effective method which can help stop the bleeding. If bleeding becomes severe and if blood comes out while coughing inform your doctor immediately and act as per his directions.