Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy
Tonsils and adenoids: a good thing gone awry? For some, that may just be the case.
In children, the tonsils and adenoids act as immune system gatekeepers. Located at the back of the throat and behind the nose, respectively, the tonsils and adenoids help protect against germs that may enter the body through the mouth or nose.
However, that immune system role – which also happens to make the tonsils and adenoids particularly susceptible to inflammation – significantly diminishes by the age of 15. This helps explain why enlarged tonsils and adenoids are a common curse of childhood but rare among adults.
What Are the Tonsils and Adenoids, Anyway?
The tonsils are small, oval-shaped clusters of lymph cells located along each side at the opening of the throat. Once believed to serve no purpose, tonsils actually act as a filter for bacteria and viruses and keep ingested items from slipping into the lungs. Tonsils also produce antibodies and white blood cells that help fight infections.
The adenoids are glands located behind the nose near the opening of the eustachian tubes, which connect the back of the nose to the middle ear. Like the tonsils, your adenoids trap harmful bacteria and viruses. The adenoids produce antibodies and white blood cells and help prevent throat and lung infections. Adenoids grow in size until the age of 6, then begin to shrink and may be entirely gone by adulthood.
Both the tonsils and adenoids may swell when fighting infection, which can cause difficulty breathing and obstructive sleep apnea. In addition, enlarged adenoids can increase the likelihood of recurring ear infections and may even lead to hearing loss.
Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become red and inflamed, most often due to a viral infection. When a bacterial infection is to blame for tonsillitis, it’s because of strep throat. Tonsillitis symptoms include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, tender lymph nodes at the side of the neck, and fever.
When You Should See a Doctor
You should visit an ENT specialist if your child has a sore throat and pain or difficulty when swallowing that doesn’t go away after a few days. At Georgetown ENT, Dr. Scott Franklin has treated thousands of children over the years for tonsillitis and enlarged adenoids.
If you or your child has tonsillitis, you need to visit an ENT doctor for proper treatment. Tonsillitis caused by a bacterial infection such as strep throat will require antibiotics. Failure to properly treat strep throat can lead to serious medical complications such as rheumatic fever, toxic shock syndrome, and more.
You may want to consider surgery if you or your child has frequently recurring tonsillitis. This is especially true if the inflammation or infection doesn’t respond to conventional treatment, if symptoms are severe, or if it causes other health concerns such as breathing problems during sleep.
Tonsillitis may be considered frequently recurring if it occurs:
- More than 7 times in a single year
- More than 4 or 5 times for each of the previous two years
- More than 3 times for each of the previous three years
Treatment for Tonsillitis and Adenoiditis
Dr. Franklin may prescribe medications, depending on the cause of your or your child’s symptoms. For example, antibiotics are required to treat bacterial infections such as strep throat. A steroid nasal spray may be prescribed to reduce the size of enlarged adenoids. If this approach does not alleviate symptoms, surgery may be required.
Surgical Removal of Tonsils and Adenoids
After conducting a thorough evaluation, Dr. Franklin will let you know if you or your child needs surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy). Both are outpatient procedures performed under general anesthesia.
An adenoidectomy may be done in conjunction with ear tube surgery or balloon dilation of the eustachian tubes in patients with recurring ear infections. An adenoidectomy may also be performed at the same time as a balloon sinuplasty to address chronic sinus infections.
Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions after surgery, which will likely include drinking lots of fluids and a diet of soft foods for a while. An ice collar may help soothe post-op pain and you or your child should avoid strenuous activity for at least a week after surgery.
ENT Specialist in Georgetown, Texas
If recurring tonsillitis is a problem for you or your child, or if you suspect your child has enlarged adenoids, contact Georgetown ENT today. Call our office in Georgetown, Texas at (512) 869-0604 or request a consultation now with double-board-certified ENT surgeon Dr. Scott W. Franklin.