Tonsillectomy Adult – What to Expect

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

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Tonsillectomy – Adult Recovery and Risks

Most studies indicate a two to four percent risk of delayed hemorrhage [severe bleeding]. Where tonsillectomy in adults 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.

Tonsillectomy Adult
Tonsillectomy in Adults

“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.

502 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy in Adults

  1. I am a 28 year old female who had a tonsillectomy about a week ago. I first want to say that I found this site helpful both before and after the surgery. Hearing everyone’s remedies and that you are not the only one that is older and having this procedure is very reassuring. I want to share what really seemed to help me get through my recovery. Immediately following my surgery I was actually not in terrible pain, it was bearable. As the days went by the pain continued and always seemed to be worse after sleeping through the night or naps throughout the day. The one thing that I will STRESS is to keep drinking as much water as possible! Even if it is painful, trust me, you will not regret it. I had no bladder issues this way and honestly I think it’s helped me heal better. Also stay on time with your pain meds. I set alarms every 4 hours (even through the night) so that I wouldn’t miss because as soon as you do you know it! I’m still taking them and it’s a week later. I will start to lower the dosage after my follow up appointment tomorrow. Also ICE and lots of it! Eating ice chips or if you have a Nutibullet it will make snow-like ice. I kept that near me at all times! They say that both water and ice will help to keep you from having bleeding. I was lucky enough to borrow a Don Joy which is like an ice pack that never gets warm. I held that on my throat daily for the first few days. I was not able to eat anything but liquids so I drank Carnation Breakfasts or Ensure would work. They say to stay away from citrus but I say stay away from any fruit in the first days, it all burned to me. I drank broth too (cold). Smoothies were easier in time. One thing I didn’t read on here was anyone having trouble with a cough. I developed a chesty cough Day 3-4 that was horrendous! It was so painful to cough and it left my throat raw. I just kept pounding down the water as much as possible and started taking Tussin. I did call the nurse and she said it was nothing to worry about. I still have it today but it has weakened a bit and menthol cough drops help. A humidifier has been my lifesaver also through all this! I use it every night! Especially if your surgery is in the winter I highly suggest if you don’t have one, you get one. Prepare yourself for a slow recovery. No part of this recovery goes fast. Stock your fridge with lots of soft foods and variations because you will get tired of eating the same stuff. You will feel better! Just don’t rush your body’s healing process. Lots of rest! We can get through it!

  2. I had my tonsillectomy on 3/14/18. I am 17 years old. I got this surgery because I snore and have sleep apnea (I am also overweight) and just have very large tonsils as well. I wanted to share my experience in detail to help anyone that has this surgery in the future.
    Day 1 (day of surgery)- I went in around 8 AM and they checked my vitals and eventually gave me a pill thta was supposed to make me slightly woozy. I really didn’t feel anything though. They wheeled me into the surgical room and gave me a mask and told me to breathe in and was out of it right away. I woke up in another room feeling out of it and had ice on my throat. I didn’t have a ton of pain but it was definitely uncomfortable to swallow and was a little sore. I didn’t have anything to drink or eat at this point. They also told me they wanted to keep me overnight because I was overweight and could have complications but I was totally fine. Once I got to the hospital room, I sat around and eventually ordered dinner which was grilled cheese w/ tomato soup, a little mac and cheese and mashed potato, ice cream, and water. I was fine eating all of this, just a little uncomfortable to swallow. I didn’t have much pain. Throughout the night, the nurse came in to give me meds (children’s liquid motrin and tylenol) and asked me my pain level. I said 1 or 2 all the times they asked. I slept very well.

    Day 2- woke up and drank water (I had to drink 22.5 oz to leave hospital). I ate chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. I was discharged soon and got home and was exhausted. I continued to take my meds and ate rice for dinner. I still wasn’t in a lot of pain, just uncomfortable with my scabs.

    Day 3- I woke up in the middle of night 2 with a lot of pain (around 6). I took the meds but it didn’t help a lot. Woke up Thursday in pain because my throat was dry but water hurt to swallow so I wasn’t drinking as much as I should have. I ate scrambled eggs w toast, rice, and some other soft foods in between. Eating hurt but my mom is very persistent and made me eat. Although it hurts at the time, I definitely think its why my recovery went by quick.

    Day 4/5- These were rough and had pain of around 7. I was still eating as normal as possible (eggs, toast, rice) and drinking lots of water but it was painful. My parents wouldn’t let me take the oxycodeine I was prescribed but the children’s liquid stuff was not cutting it. I started taking regular tylenol and motrin pills and I was actually able to swallow the pills! They helped the pain much more! Weirdly, in the day the meds would work well but in the evening I would be taking them more often. Nights were the worst though because throat is super dry, water hurts, can’t sleep. This was the point that I felt like the pain would never end, especially reading posts that were on day 14/15 and still in pain.
    Day 7- These days was better! I ate about the same but had less pain but it still got worse at night. I definitely knew I was getting better though
    Day 8- This day was good! Only a little uncomfortable but honestly felt pretty good!
    Day 9- Went back to school this day! Felt good, ate normal
    Day 10/11/12- These were the last days I felt anything really and it was a slight discomfort when swallowing- no pain though. No pain meds day 12 and lessened them from day 8.

    Overall this procedure was more painful than I thought but not nearly as bad as I thought after reading some posts. I think I was really lucky and looking back now it was only about 4 days of pain..what’s that in our many years of life? It just seems never ending at the time but just take the meds, eat as much as possible, and entertain yourself. Also don’t take naps because you want to be exhausted by the end of the day so you can sleep easily. I also was sick right before surgery so afterwards I had a cough which sucked but didn’t make it more painful while coughing. Sneezes suck though- hold it in. ALSO- don’t eat ice cream/ dairy the first week at least cause it makes throat phlegmy. One of the worst parts was the awful taste in my mouth and it made some things I ate taste bad s well. This went away around day 8.

  3. I am 8 days post tonsilectomy today. I am 35 year old man from Nigeria. Surgery went on well and lasted about 20 minutes. Immediate post operative was smooth as I had the tonsilar bed soaked with local anaesthetic and was placed on strong pain killer. By day 2 I was moving about every where and everyone was marvelled at my recovery. Alas!! Day 3 up till today has been the worst day of my life. the pain has being coming in session whenever the pain killer wears off. I was not informed by the ENT surgeon that the pain will be this horrible . The comments I read on this platform gave me some relief and has encouraged me to share my experience.Wish every other patient reading this a speedy recovery. Hang-on dear the pain will soon be over.

  4. Hi i need some help please. I had a tonsilectomy 2 weeks ago in the uk. The first 10 days were the worst of my life, i was in so much pain. The pain is better now i just have a slight sore throat but i have a long black thread hanging in my throat and its so uncomfortable. It keeps moving and everything i eat is gets stuck around it and it gets to the point where i have to dig the food out as it chokes me. I have been eating ok, the first few days i would take my painkillers and force myself to eat as i thought it would heal faster. Has anyone else had this thread problem? Does anyone know what it is?? I wasnt aware that i had any kind of stitches.

  5. Hi… I’m day 7 post op. My doc told me how brutal this would be and I have to say I thought I was tough and would sail through this. Boy was I wrong. If you have kids be sure to have family help out as much as possible as my husband had to take care of me the first two days. The pain is far worse than child birth. Ice on the neck and gargling with salt water helps a lot as does chewing on gum and heat on your ears. I had significant ear pain which they say is common after removal. I’m on a liquid oxy which I feel does nothing for the pain as well as liquid Tylenol and ibuprofen. Drink as much water as you can.

    1. I am 46 yrs old, had surgery a week ago today. The pain is horrible, I agree much worse than child birth. Thank you for posting, thought I was being a baby.

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