Tonsillectomy for tonsillitis is generally used for children who have serious complications or recurrent infections that do not respond to other treatment, especially when they interfere with daily life. But tonsillectomy should only be done after you and your doctor carefully consider your child's medical history and overall health.
Researchers in a recent study concluded that tonsillectomy may be no better than watchful waiting for children who have mild symptoms, which was defined as tonsillitis occurring fewer than 3 times a year.2
But for some children, tonsillectomy can greatly improve their quality of life. Children who are most likely to benefit from tonsillectomy are those who have:
- 7 or more episodes of tonsillitis in 1 year, or 5 or more episodes a year for the past 2 years, or 3 or more episodes a year for the past 3 years. Tonsillectomy is more likely to be considered as treatment when some of these episodes result in missing school, trouble sleeping, or having other problems with normal daily life.2
- Tonsillitis lasting longer than 3 months, despite medicine.
- Obstructed air passages.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Difficulty talking because of nasal obstruction.
- Tonsils that bleed heavily.
What to think about
Tonsillectomy is still the most common major surgical procedure done on children in the United States. But it is not done as often as it was in the past.
Upper respiratory infections and tonsillitis usually occur less frequently as a child gets older. Consider whether your child's tonsillitis infections are manageable until you can wait to see if he or she outgrows them.
A child who has tonsillectomy will need special care and close monitoring for at least a week after the surgery. Consider your ability to provide this care for your child before deciding on tonsillectomy.