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Partial Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy


What happens when tonsils and adenoids become enlarged?

Tonsils and adenoids become enlarged when bacteria or viruses enter into the airway and come in contact with these glands.  In children, it is normal for these glands to remain enlarged due to the constant exposure to organisms not previously encountered.  Enlarged adenoids and tonsils in and of themselves are not indicative of infection.  When the tonsils and adenoids become enlarged for long periods of time, their filter function can be affected.  They then act more as reservoirs for infection rather than filters.   This is the most common reason for removal of tonsils and adenoids.

What is a partial tonsillectomy?

A partial tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure, which shaves off a large portion of the tonsils.  Partial tonsillectomy is an option when a patient is suffering from obstructive sleep apnea with symptoms such as snoring and mouth breathing.  Partial tonsillectomy results in a shorter and less painful recovery than a full tonsillectomy because it leaves part of the tonsillar capsule in place.  The downside of this procedure is that there is a 5-10% chance of re-growth of the tonsils and a 5-10% chance of developing infection in the remaining tonsil tissue.  Please contact our office and schedule an appointment to discuss which surgery is most advantageous for you or your child's situation.

What is an adenoidectomy?

An adenoidectomy is the surgical removal or partial removal of the adenoids, lymphoid tissue located on the back wall of the throat, behind the nose.  This tissue is similar to tonsil tissue.

When should tonsils and adenoids be removed?

Adenoids and tonsils are recommended for removal when they become the continual source of infection or when they become so enlarged that they cause obstructive symptoms.  Partial tonsillectomy is recommended when the tonsils cause obstructive sleep apnea.  It is usually not indicated to treat recurrent infections.

Indications for partial tonsillectomy are:

  • persistent mouth-breathing
  • abnormal speech
  • severe snoring
  • persistent swallowing difficulties

Indications for adenoidectomy are:

  • obstruction to the airway
  • nasal stuffiness and post nasal drip
  • chronic infection (infection of the adenoids usually presents itself in the form of foul smelling breath, cough or recurrent drainage)
  • chronic ear infection  
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