One of the most common major operations performed on children today is a pediatric tonsillectomy. As a parent, there are obviously questions and concerns regarding this surgical procedure if your otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) has recommended  it for your child. Below we have highlighted some important questions that are commonly asked of the specialists at The Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates.

What are the Tonsils?

The tonsils are two masses of immune cells found in the lymph glands, one on either side in the back of the mouth. The tonsils main role as part of our immune system is to help fight germs that cause illness. “I tell patients to think of tonsils as ‘germ processing centers,’” says Jeffrey E. Baylor, M.D.“They help our bodies identify and recognize different kinds of germs so we can defend ourselves better.”

Why Does My Child Need a Tonsillectomy?

Two of the most common reasons for a tonsillectomy include chronic tonsillitis and sleep apnea issues.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, a tonsillectomy may be recommended if your child has had tonsillitis at least five times in one year or three times a year for at least three years.

“Tonsillitis is a throat infection that is generally caused by the strep bacteria or a virus,” says Henry N. Ho, M.D., F.A.C.S., president of the practice. “Although removing the tonsils will not prevent a common cold or occasional sore throat, it will stop the child from having recurrent tonsillitis.”

When the tonsils and/or adenoids are too large they may partially block a child’s breathing during sleep, thereby causing sleep apnea. “This will cause a child to consistently experience restless sleep and result in decreased ability to focus and concentrate during the day,” says Jeffrey E. Baylor, M.D., F.A.C.S. “Removing the tonsils makes breathing much easier and will solve the problem in the majority of children.”

What Happens the Day of Surgery?

Prior to the day of surgery you will be given detailed instructions from the surgical staff on all limitations and expectations before and after the surgery. Tonsillectomies are outpatient surgical procedures, so you will not have to spend a night in the hospital, however your child will have to undergo general anesthesia. Once you arrive at the hospital and your child is prepped for surgery, they will be given an anesthetic and taken to the operating room (OR).

“Once in the OR we will remove the tonsils and/or adenoids through the mouth in less than an hour usually,” says Dr. Lavasani. “Following surgery we will find the family to discuss how the procedure went and let them know when it’s alright to visit their child in the recovery room, which is usually about 45 minutes later.”

What Happens After Surgery?

After surgery you will be discharged from the hospital and sent home. Your child may experience an upset stomach and vomiting for the first 24 hours after surgery. Your child may experience a sore throat for up to two weeks following the procedure.

You will be given a prescription for pain medication for your child along with a few helpful tips, such as trying to get them to eat and drink about 30 minutes after they ingest the medication, as this will be when it is the least painful for them.

“One of the things many parents forget to look out for is dehydration following surgery,” says Dr. Baylor. “Be on the lookout for sunken eyes, dry lips and a lack of bathroom trips from your child. It is imperative that the child stays hydrated to speed recovery and keep their body at optimum health while recovering.”

Article by Corey Gehrold

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