Is it a Good Idea for Adults to Get Tonsil Surgery?

Close up of young woman rubbing her inflamed tonsils, tonsilitis problem

When an ENT suggests tonsil surgery to an adult, it frequently comes as a surprise. They ask, isn’t that something for children? Or, is there an age restriction for tonsil removal in adults? Well actually, there’s no true age limit on a tonsillectomy. Your provider will look at the condition of your tonsils and your specific symptoms rather than how old you are.

As with any type of surgery, tonsil surgery may have some drawbacks. Consequently, it’s a good plan to talk over your questions with your ENT, and thoroughly discuss what will happen during your tonsil surgery.

What is a tonsillectomy?

When you have a tonsillectomy, your tonsils will be surgically extracted. That most likely sounds fairly obvious. But that’s not the end of it. Your tonsils are two lymph nodes at the back of your throat. Your body is packed with lymph nodes and your tonsils are a special instance of these lymph nodes.

As with other lymph nodes, your tonsils work to help shield you from sickness and infection. Your tonsils might become swollen as they intercept germs (that’s why your physician feels around in your throat and neck, because you can sometimes identify this inflammation with your other lymph nodes).

When is it appropriate for an adult to undergo a tonsillectomy?

For a wide variety of reasons, tonsillectomy surgery is not quite as universal as it once was (they’re actually pretty common still, with around 500,000 procedures being carried out every year.).

In adults, there are a number of signs you need to have your tonsils taken out, including the following:

  • Your tonsils are damaged: In some cases, damage, like an abscess or sore, can be a source of discomfort and a cause for worry when it comes to your health. Your ENT may recommend having your tonsils removed in situations like these.
  • You have sleep apnea: Breathing issues, especially sleep apnea, can occasionally be caused by your tonsils. When your airways become obstructed while you sleep, this is known as sleep apnea (usually, this causes restless nights and snoring, but it can sometimes cause death). The airways will be clear when the tonsils are gone and you will get a more peaceful night’s sleep.
  • Chronic infections: Before germs can get in and trigger an infection, your tonsils are there to filter them out. But sometimes, your tonsils do their job too well, and they continuously trigger infections instead of preventing them. These persistent infections are often addressed by removing the tonsils completely.
  • Your tonsils are asymmetrical: Your tonsils should be around the same size. So when one tonsil grows larger than the other, this can be an indication that you might need treatment (in some instances, it’s a possible sign of cancer). Your doctor may suggest the extraction of one or more of your tonsils if one grows larger than the other.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of tonsillectomy

When it comes to a tonsillectomy, as with any surgical procedure, there are upsides and downsides. Depending on why your tonsils need to be extracted, the advantages and disadvantages will vary.

But there are some drawbacks to surgery. So with adults, what downsides does a tonsillectomy present? Here are a few of the most common:

  • Complications: Any surgery has a risk of complications, and that’s definitely true in terms of tonsillectomy. Your provider can help you better comprehend these complications.
  • Recovery: It might take some time to recuperate from your tonsillectomy. Although the surgery will likely be done on an outpatient basis, that doesn’t mean the discomfort will go away in a day. You can normally expect a 10-14 day recovery period after a tonsillectomy surgery.
  • Discomfort: How painful is tonsil surgery in adults? Well, this surgery does have a reputation for causing discomfort. Some evidence indicates that children often feel less discomfort from this surgery than adults (precisely why this is, isn’t well established).

Should you get a tonsillectomy?

So, is it worth removing tonsils in adults? Well, it depends (no surgical procedure is universally a good plan). Your doctor will decide whether this surgery is right for you based on your symptoms and your general health.

Getting a tonsillectomy will have positive results for many and will improve their lives. Contact us for an appointment if you are coping with sleep apnea, have chronic soar throats, or are concerned about the health of your tonsils.


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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