Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Patient Postoperative Instructions and Information Tonsils

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Patient Education Information Sheet

North Florida/South Georgia

Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS)

Surgical Service, ENT Section

Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy

Patient Postoperative Instructions and Information

A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove your tonsils. The tonsils are 2 large lumps of tissue in the back of your throat. Tonsils are part of the immune system. Your body can do fine without them. Your tonsils may need to be taken out if you have frequent tonsil infections, if the tonsils are too large, or if there is concern for cancer.

You will be asleep under general anesthesia while your tonsils are being taken out. The doctor places tools inside your mouth to keep it open and to keep your tongue out of the way. Your doctor uses tools to take your tonsils out. The doctor uses tools to stop the bleeding in the areas where tissue was removed. Rarely, a tooth can be chipped or dislodged even though tooth protectors are used during surgery. You may have tongue numbness or taste change after surgery which sometimes can takes weeks to improve. The biggest risk from tonsillectomy is bleeding. Up to 10% of adults will need to come back and be treated for bleeding after tonsillectomy. Very rarely, a patient can have severe bleeding after surgery that leads to death.
The surgery usually lasts an hour or less. Having tonsils removed as an adult is more painful than it is for a child. You may have a very severe sore throat for two weeks or more after surgery.
You will usually go home the same day of surgery. You will need someone to drive you home.
If your tonsillectomy was done because of concerns about tonsil cancer, your surgeon or a resident surgeon will call you with the result of the biopsy as soon as it is available. This usually takes 5-7 VA business days.
If you have not heard the results within that time, please call the ENT clinic to request
the results.


Adenoids are small lumps of tissue on the top of your throat. Many people no longer have adenoids by the time they are adults. Adenoids are removed in a similar way to tonsils. The pain after this surgery is usually less than after tonsillectomy. You may have ear pain after adenoidectomy.


No straining, heavy lifting, or vigorous exercise for 2 weeks after surgery.


You should follow a soft diet for two weeks. This means nothing sharp, for example, no Doritos, popcorn, nuts, etc. Any liquid or soft food is fine.


Throat pain may be moderate to severe.

Do not drive, operate dangerous machinery, or do anything dangerous if you are a taking narcotic pain med (examples are oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, etc.) These drugs affect your reflexes and responses, just like alcohol.
Healing process:

It is normal to have bad breath as your throat heals after surgery. This may last several weeks. It is also normal to have a grey/white coating where your tonsils were as you heal. This will clear up within a few weeks.

When to Call Your Surgeon: If you have…

  1. Any concerns. We would much rather that you call your doctor then worry at home, or get into trouble.

  2. Persistent fever over 101.5 degrees F.

  3. Unable to eat or drink.

  4. Difficulty urinating.

  5. Neck stiffness.

  6. If you have chest pain or difficulty breathing, don’t call-- you will need to go to the nearest emergency room immediately.


The time that you are most risk for bleeding is within 24 hours after surgery, and again 5-7 days after surgery. At 5-7 days after surgery, scabs in your throat can peel off and cause serious bleeding. If you have a tiny amount of blood in your saliva, you can stay at home and keep an eye on it. Go back to a liquid diet for the remainder of the day. If you have bright red blood from your mouth or throat, you will need to be seen by your surgeon. If it is severe, go to the nearest emergency room. Otherwise come to the Gainesville VA emergency room to be seen by an ENT resident physician or surgeon.

How to Call Your Surgeon:

  1. If it is urgent, call 911 or go directly to the emergency room without calling.

  2. If it is not urgent, during clinic hours of 8 am to 4 pm, call ENT secretary at 352-548-6143 or the ENT clinical coordinator at 352-548-6142. Messages will be checked frequently and a doctor will be asked to return your call.

  1. If it is not urgent but cannot wait 2 hours, please try a number of ENT clinic numbers: nurses’ station at 352-548-6150 or the front desk at 352-548-6153. Do not leave a message at these numbers.

  2. If you still have not spoken with a surgeon, or if it is after 4 pm or a weekend, call the VA operator at 352-376-1611(toll free 1-800-324-8387) and press 0 to speak with the operator. Insist that the operator page the ENT resident surgeon on-call.

Post Operative Appointment:

We will usually schedule an appointment about 1 month after your tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. Please call the VA ENT Clinic front desk at 352-548-6153 if this appointment has not been made for you.

Group 7Visit your NF/SGVHS Internet site at:
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