Tonsillectomy | Adults

 Tonsillectomy as an Adult- What to Expect

tonsillectomy adult

Adult Tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy as an adult is quite different than tonsillectomy for children. The methods employed for tonsillectomy in adults and children are generally the same, (See Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Methods page), and the risks for adults are similar to the risks for children, (See The Tonsillectomy Risks

Tonsillectomy – Adult Recovery and Risks

Most studies indicate a two to four percent risk of delayed hemorrhage [severe bleeding]. Where adult tonsillectomies differs most from tonsillectomy in children is in the recovery. Recovery from childhood tonsillectomy generally takes five to seven days. Recovery from  tonsillectomy in adults usually requires at least ten days and more often two weeks.

Before deciding to get an adult tonsillectomy, it’s important to choose a time frame in which you have the time and the support. Recovering over your favorite Holiday might be a good choice in terms of time, (eg holiday leave from work or school), but it may not be a time that people will be available to help you.

The pain associated with adult tonsillectomy recovery, by almost all accounts, is more intense than that experienced by children. Some theorize that children haven’t had as much time without pain as adults and thus their frame of reference is different than adult tonsillectomy patients. Others assume that children may be less able to articulate their discomfort. Having read the accounts of THOUSANDS of adult tonsillectomies in the forum,(See Tonsillectomy Forum page), I can say with some confidence that generally, the younger the patient, the easier the tonsillectomy recovery. There are of course exceptions. I’ve read from many middle aged adults who had a fairly smooth recovery. Perhaps they read up on this website and prepared well. Perhaps they had good genes.  In any case, many time an adult tonsillectomy recovery is better than the horror stories we hear about.

“If I could recommend one item to buy before tonsillectomy, it would be a humidifier. My readers know how important moist air is to a healing throat. I bought one of these years ago and still use it daily” -Greg

I’d like to take a moment here to make a suggestion. As you read through the people’s accounts in the various chat rooms, message boards, and adult tonsillectomy forums, consider this: People having a harder time, may be more prone to seek out information and share their experience in these venues. Adults experiencing milder tonsillectomy recoveries, might be less apt to be posting. I don’t want to drag Richard Nixon into my website, but this silent majority may be quietly recovering and you’ll never hear from them.
My advice is to research as much as you can, talk with your doctor, talk with your family and friends, and talk with your employer before scheduling your adult tonsillectomy. I wish you all the best.

I’ve put together a collection of items that I think would be helpful, if not essential, to making tonsillectomy recovery a little more pleasant. Check out the Tonsillectomy General Store.

We’re Moving the Discussion to the Tonsillectomy Forums

244 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy | Adults

  1. I’m three weeks since tonsillectomy. It was nothing like the majority of posts. I had a coblation tonsillectomy with an overnight stay in hospital. The first couple of days were uncomfortable and a little sore, but the pain medications helped heaps. No scabs fell off either, they slowly dissolved. One suggestion is to plan your procedure in cooler and wet months, the moisture and temperature make it more comfortable. And sip rehydration liquid for the first week, it will make you heal faster. Not a terrible experience as others say

  2. I had my tonsils out on 3/17 and I am generally feeling back to normal with my throat . a few tips for those that are about to go have a tonsilectomy:
    1. Shop around for the ENT Dr. that you trust. I had some hesitation about mine from the get go but was soothed over by his nurse. I wish I would have listened to my gut instinct and gone to another doctor.
    2. As another page on this site mentions be firm with your doctor about the medications you would like. I asked my doctor to please give me a steroid prescription once my surgery was complete to keep the swelling under control. He said that I would get some steroid while I was in recovery and that was all I needed. WRONG most of my pain and discomfort came from swelling and I would have greatly benefited from having steroid to help keep that under control.
    3. Be very smart about the use of the pain medicine ( hydrocodine and oxycodine) it only takes your body 7 days to depend upon those medicines. I took mine for the two full weeks I am paying the price with a full withdrawl. Make sure you research the safest way to taper off of these medicine, you will still experience withdrawl but not nearly as severe. For me the worst about this withdrawl is the night sweats. I am currently on my 4th night of them and can expect 3 more. Again Opiate withdrawal is no joke and not very pleasant, so get off them as soon as you can.
    4. Take stool softener from the very beginning, TRUST me you will need it.
    5. Buy as many of the portable hand warmers as you can get your hands on before your surgery. They were without doubt the only thing that helped with the ear pain after surgery.
    7. Take a minimum of two weeks off of work, if you have children find someone to assist in taking care of them this is a big surgery and you will easily need two weeks off. I wish I had done three.
    8. Above all trust yourself and what is best for you! On day 7 I could not get the pain under control and finally went into the ER. It was the best decision I made during my entire recovery. For some reason on the 7th day my body got used to the amount of hydrocodine I was on and the pain became unbearable, I could get no food or water down for over 6 hours. Even following the the medicine directions exactly and having set timers the pain was breaking through in a horrible way. The Dr. gave me steroids, antibiotics and heavy medications. Finally the pain was back under control, the swelling was down and I was fully hydrated. If you get to the point where you are wondering if you need to go to the ER, you probably should.
    9. Make sure you have a humidifier they do wonders.
    10. Try to have someone to be with you, or check in on you daily. Some days you are okay and the next you are not. The most interesting part of this recovery was it it not always a straight uphill climb. There are peaks and valleys during your recovery with the highest peak being between days 5 and 8.
    11. the type of liquid ( warm or hot or cold) differs from day to day! drink whatever makes your throat and in my case ears feel best.

    Good luck on your recovery, I promise the pain will subside soon enough.

  3. I am day 11 after surgery. Before surgery I was so worried after having read many horror stories about tonsillectomy’s.
    In fact a few nights before the surgery I was ready to cancel, I was so nervous. I am glad I didn’t !
    I can honestly say it wasn’t the easiest to recover from but I am feeling so great today that I am glad I did it.
    My advice to everyone is to be prepared. I had a humidifier, icepacks for throat, essential oils (lavender and melaleuca), gatorade, popsicles, ice chips, throat sprays, movies, etc.
    The first few days- 1-5 were the worst for me. I had complications during the procedure and needed oxygen to breath so I went home with oxygen. I was able to get off it by day 4.
    I ate ice chips and jello for the first two days. The cold felt amazing! Numbed my throat. I set my alarm to wake me up every 30 mins and made myself drink ice water and ice chips- the more I drank the better I felt.
    I put the lavender on the outside of my neck with the ice packs.
    Many comments I had read said they had severe pain in their ears and neck. The ice packs helped with that and I never had horrible pain because of it.
    Once I started feeling the scabs coming off- day 5-8 I started gargling with cold salt water with a drop of the melalueca oil in it to get rid of infection.
    Around day 6 or 7 I couldn’t drink cold anymore and just drank room temp water. Just remember to drink!!
    I can say that it is easier if you realize that you will be in pain for 2 weeks. If you are lucky like I was in feeling better on the 11th day then that is great.
    Everyone heals differently. But if you are prepared and sleep and take your pain pills you will do fine!!!
    Oh, my last advice to you. My pharmacist friend gave me the advice to cut my oxycodone in half and take it every 2 hours instead of every four hours and that helped a lot! It was the same dose just got into my body faster each time.
    I also used my phone to wake me up and my notes in my phone to tell me what times i took my pills.
    Good luck! You will be happy you did it!

    1. I too just had the surgery 3 weeks ago on the 12th and I’m 34 yrs old& was terrified & had rescheduled it 3 times in a year, but finally took the plunge. I read all that I could abt tips and tricks for fast recovery. I made sure to have ice and powerade handy and drank constantly while I was awake and made sure I drank every 2 hrs at least. Days 1-3 were a breeze for me, Day 4 wasn’t a picnic but days 5,6,7 & 8 were like I wished I could be in a coma to get rid of the pain, my ENT let me come into the office for Toradol shot on those days to help aid me. That helped some. I made sure that I stayed hydrated, I had an ice pack under my chin for the gland swelling and only ate broth and a couple spoons of mashed potatoes. If you listen to instructions & take the liquid lortab and children motrin liquid every 3 hrs as instructed you should do fine. It wasn’t the easiest surgery but I am so glad that I did it bc it still wasn’t as awful as the horror stories u read. I will no longer have to worry about tonsil stones, or strep and that gives me piece of mind. Good luck to all and god bless

  4. If you’re thinking about getting a tonsillectomy I highly recommend getting a coblation tonsillectomy. Coblation tonsillectomies damage less healthy tissue than other methods. Many people go into the surgery not knowing what method their doctor is going to use, and the methods vary greatly and can affect how well your recovery goes. I had a smooth recovery with minimal pain, no bleeding and no complications. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

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