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What are the benefits of having your tonsils removed?

Find out 5 benefits of a tonsillectomy, as well as advice from our Consultant ENT Surgeon, Mr Andrew Camilleri.

If you or your child is experiencing recurring tonsillitis, you may be thinking about having your tonsils removed.

Although tonsillitis is a common illness and usually goes away in a few days, ongoing bouts can not only be painful, but also disruptive to day-to-day life.

Here are 5 benefits of having a tonsillectomy

1. Improved quality of life

Tonsillitis can be painful as well as frustrating. However, a successful tonsillectomy can improve your overall quality of life1.

A study found that patients experienced improvements to their quality of life 14 months after surgery and at seven years. There was also a reduction in the number of sore throat episodes1.

By having your tonsils removed, you should no longer experience uncomfortable symptoms, such as pain and a sore throat related to tonsillitis.

2. Fewer infections

As your tonsils will be removed and your general health improved, those who experience tonsillitis caused by bacteria should have fewer infections1.

Of course, you will still be at risk of colds and viruses, but these are less likely to develop into persistent infections.

Surgery may be recommended if you’ve had tonsillitis at least:

  • seven times in one year3
  • 5 infections per year for 2 consecutive years
  • 3 infections per year for 3 consecutive years

3. Less use of medication

If you have fewer tonsillitis infections, you may find that you’ll be prescribed less medication, such as antibiotics1. Although antibiotics have many benefits, they kill off your good bacteria as well as the bad.

Another benefit of this is by taking fewer antibiotics you can help to reduce your bacterial resistance to infection-fighting drugs.

4. Improved sleep

When your tonsils become infected, they can swell or become enlarged. This can be disruptive to your sleep.

A lack of sleep can make you feel tired during the day and can have a negative impact on your mood too2.

A tonsillectomy can also help to resolve other sleep-related issues too, such as sleep apnoea. This is where the tonsils get so large that they block the upper airway, which causes snoring and disrupts breathing.

5. Less time off work or school

Tonsillitis can be pretty uncomfortable, so it’s no wonder that it often results in absences from school or work.

Following a successful tonsillectomy, you may find that you’ll have less time off from school or work as you’ll no longer be getting as many infections1.

What can you expect from surgery?

A tonsillectomy is performed under general anaesthetic. The operation itself is pretty short, taking around one hour.

Most patients can return home the day after their operation, but it can take up to two weeks for the pain to diminish completely.

During this time, it’s recommended that you remain off work or school to help prevent you from catching an infection while your throat is healing.

The Consultant's View

Consultant ENT Surgeon, Mr Andrew Camilleri from The Alexandra Hospital, shares his advice on why you might consider having a tonsillectomy.

Q: Why should you have a tonsillectomy?

Mr Andrew Camilleri says...

Tonsillectomy was a very common procedure to treat children and adults with recurrent sore throats.

In the 1950s, 200,000 tonsillectomies were carried out every year4. However, in 1994-5, there were only 77,604 tonsillectomies and in 2008-9 only 49,187 tonsillectomies took place in UK5. This is probably down to the increased use of antibiotics.

However, the hospital admission rate for sore throats has increased from 49,740 in 2001-2 to 76,084 in 2010-116. So are we taking too few tonsils out now?

Although tonsillitis is the main reason for tonsillectomy, the recognition of sleep apnoea syndrome has made this the commonest indication in pre-school children.

The tonsils are usually removed between attacks of sore throat unless the airway is threatened. An occasional reason for tonsillectomy is deep crypts in the tonsil which collect food debris (white spots) that can cause bad breath.

Patients with asthma7 or psoriasis8 attacks can get significant relief from those diseases after tonsillectomy.

The effect of tonsillectomy on long term health is debated. There is a definite reduction in attacks of sore throat9.

One study found increased risk of asthma, influenza and pneumonia as well as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, but it is not clear if patients more inclined towards tonsil pain in childhood are naturally at higher risk of serious respiratory disease10.

With increasing antibiotic resistance, less antibiotic treatment is advised for tonsillitis so it is likely that the rate of tonsillectomy will rise again.