It’s easy to think of a tonsillectomy as a kid’s surgery, because it is one of the most common surgeries to be performed on children. But the surgery isn’t for kids alone. Each year in the United States, thousands of adults and older teens have tonsillectomies. And while the surgery itself is the same, the recovery is a little different. If you’re an adult planning to have a tonsillectomy, it’s good to know what to expect and be prepared before going in for surgery.

When do adults need tonsillectomies?

The first question many people ask is why would adults consider having their tonsils removed. In many cases, it’s for the same reason as young children. If you’ve suffered from several infections over the past one to three years, such as strep throat or tonsillitis, you might be a candidate for a tonsillectomy. It’s often recommended for people who have an infection that gets better with antibiotics but comes back once the prescribed medication ends.

  • Adults might also consider a tonsillectomy to help with severe sleep apnea, and it is a surgery used to treat some types of cancers.
  • A tonsillectomy removes the tonsils, which are two mounds of tissue at the back of the throat. The tonsils are part of the immune system, and their function is to trap germs and help fight off infection.

What can I expect from surgery?

For many people, having a tonsillectomy helps reduce the number of severe infections and reduces the need for antibiotic treatment. People suffering from severe sleep apnea will find removing the tonsils can help open up the airway and makes it easier to breathe while sleeping. While the surgery is the same for adults or children, it’s important to be aware that adult
recovery often takes longer. Adults should plan for at least two weeks to heal after surgery, as opposed to one week for children. This is partly due to the fact that children heal faster, but also possibly comes from adults attempting to get back into their regular routine too quickly after surgery, causing pain and fatigue before the body has fully healed.

Adults also report experiencing more pain than children after a tonsillectomy. This could be related to adults have more scar tissue on their tonsils, making them more difficult to remove.
Scar tissue builds on the tonsils with each infection, and adults have had more time to accumulate scar tissue. The best road to recovery is to take the pain medicine as prescribed by the doctor, and plan to take it easy for at least 10 to 14 days to give your body time to fully recover.

Drink plenty of water and clear fluids to stay hydrated, and eat soft foods that are easy on your sore throat. It’s also recommended to sleep on at least two, even three pillows. Elevating  your head will help keep the swelling down.

Remember, everyone heals at their own rate. It’s important to follow all the doctor’s directions and not rush things in order to have the best results from your surgery. If you are suffering from severe sleep apnea or chronic sore throats, consider making an appointment with one of our physicians at Piedmont Ear Nose & Throat Associates. We can talk with you about options and help you find relief and breathe easier.

Questions? Contact us, or call (336) 768-3361 today to schedule your appointment.