According to a 2014 study published in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, almost 20 percent of patients suffer from severe complications during tonsillectomies.
Complications of Tonsillitis That Require Surgery
In adults, leaving tonsillitis untreated for long can contribute to the development of other health conditions that require the removal of tonsils.
ENT doctors suggest tonsillectomy when tonsillitis causes the following conditions-
When the infections spread from tonsils to other parts such as nose, sinuses or ear and cause infections inside them, then it is known as secondary infections.
This is a type of infection in the tonsils that don’t get cured. When tonsillitis occurs repeatedly such that it causes small holes in the tonsils and foul-smelling stones, then it is categorized as chronic tonsillitis.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sometimes the tonsils can get so enlarged that it can obstruct the flow of air entering through the mouth. This generally occurs when a person is asleep hence, the name. This results in disturbing sleeping patterns in the patient.
Several patients have a pus-filled abscess also known as Peritonsillar abscess in their throat. This develops when tonsillitis is left untreated and it spreads in the surrounding tissue. This can be fatal as this can compress the air passages.
Risk and Complications of Tonsillectomy
The chances of complications after removal of the tonsils depend on the patient’s reactions to anesthesia, the rate of healing and their bodily response to the surgery.
Additionally, if the patient is already suffering from any other medical condition, the chance of any severe complications occurring is higher.
The risks and associated complications that have been reported by patients after tonsillectomy can be both short-term or long-term.
Common Side Effects After Tonsillectomy
The short-term side effects of a tonsillectomy last for a week or two after the surgery. Some of the common side effects that people complain about are-
- Feeling of nausea
- Pain in the throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Low- grade fever
- Bad breath
Severe Complications That Can Occur After Removal of Tonsils
Tonsillectomies are performed under the influence of anesthesia so that the patient is unable to feel any pain.
The complications of general anesthesia can range from minor risk to life-threatening. Minor side effects to look out for after tonsils removal are nausea and vomiting while major risks include respiratory failure, malignant hyperthermia or even death.
The risk is higher in those who have a family history of such complications or death due to the effect of general anesthesia. Hence, it becomes imperative that you inform the anesthesiologist about these potential complications before the surgery.
People who are suffering from chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, or sleep apnea might have difficulty breathing.
The risks and complications associated with general anesthesia don’t necessarily mean that you should avoid surgery. Following the doctor’s instructions and informing the doctor about any pre-existing medical condition can help lower the chances of complications.
Although very rare, this is a serious complication. During a tonsillectomy, the doctor can cause damage to major blood vessels near the tonsils.
Bleeding after the surgery are most likely to occur two times-
- The next 24 hours of the surgery
- When the scab comes off after a week or so
Patients suffering from conditions such as hemophilia or anemia are at a greater risk of bleeding after a tonsillectomy. If you take medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen or prescribed blood thinners, then stop using these before the surgery as these can cause excessive bleeding.
There are other factors also that increase the chances of bleeding- using the steroid dexamethasone and dehydration.
Pro Tip- The brown-colored blood that you cough or vomit after the surgery is nothing to be concerned about as this is the blood that gets swallowed during a tonsillectomy. Get medical attention immediately if you see bright red blood coming from the tonsils.
After a tonsillectomy, it becomes difficult to maintain oral hygiene. This results in buildup of bacteria and often leads to infections. Fortunately, this is not severe and can be treated easily with antibiotics. Some symptoms of infection are mentioned below-
- Fever greater than 101 F
- Ear pain that doesn’t seem to cure
- Difficulty in breathing
Some other rare complications that people report after removing the tonsils are-
- Burns during surgical cautery
- Due to excessive scar tissue, there is an obstruction in the upper airway
- While inserting a breathing tube, there can be damage to the teeth
- Inhaling the stomach contents by mistake
- Allergic reactions to medicines both during and after the surgery
All the above-mentioned symptoms don’t necessarily need to scare you about the surgery. If you prepare yourself better and follow the instructions provided by the doctor before the surgery, there’ll be minimal post-operative complications.
How To Prepare For Tonsils Removal Surgery?
Here’s a checklist that can help you prepare better before the surgery-
- Refrain from taking medicines that contain aspirin or it can interfere with blood clotting
- Stop eating food and drinking liquids before the surgery. This is important or else you might vomit after the anesthesia is given.
- Consult with the doctor whenever you feel the need.
List of questions that you can ask the doctor before the surgery-
- What to do if I don’t feel like drinking anything?
- What to do if there is bleeding after the surgery?
- How long will it take to recover after the surgery?
- Will my voice change?