North Richland Hills, TX

North Richland Hills and Grand Prairie, TX

North Richland Hills and Grand Prairie, TX

Is Tonsil Surgery a Good Plan for Adults?

Close up of young woman rubbing her inflamed tonsils, tonsilitis problem

When an ENT recommends tonsil surgery to an adult, it often comes as a surprise. They ask, isn’t that something for kids? Or, is there an age limit for tonsil removal in adults? A tonsillectomy can actually be performed on anyone of any age. Your provider will examine the state of your tonsils and your particular symptoms rather than how old you are.

As with any surgical procedure, tonsil surgery may have some drawbacks. Because of this, you should have a comprehensive discussion with your ENT about what the tonsil surgery will be like.

What is a tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is a surgery in which the tonsils are extracted. That most likely sounds fairly obvious. But that’s not the end of the story. You have two little lymph nodes at the back of your throat. These are your tonsils. Your body is full of lymph nodes and your tonsils are a special example of these lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes are there to protect you from infection and illness and that goes for your tonsils too. Your tonsils may become inflamed as they intercept germs (you can sometimes detect this with other lymph nodes, too, it’s why your doctor feels around your neck when you go in for an exam).

During a tonsillectomy, these two specific lymph nodes are cautiously extracted.

When is a tonsillectomy performed in adults?

For a number of reasons, tonsillectomy surgery is not as common as it once was (having said that, something like 500,000 tonsillectomies are still carried out every year, it’s a fairly common procedure).

In adults, there are several signs you need to have your tonsils extracted, including the following:

  • Your tonsils are damaged: Your tonsils can get sores on them or an abscess or possibly another source of damage which can lead to discomfort and may also be a health concern. Your ENT might advocate for having your tonsils extracted in cases like these.
  • Your tonsils are asymmetrical: Your tonsils should be about equal in size. So it’s most likely a sign that you need to get some treatment if one of your tonsils grows bigger than the other (it could also indicate a more serious medical problem). Your doctor might suggest the extraction of one or more of your tonsils if one grows bigger than the other.
  • Chronic infections: Before germs can get in and trigger an infection, your tonsils are there to filter them out. But in some cases, your tonsils are too good at their job, and they continually cause infections instead of preventing them. These persistent infections are often managed by extracting the tonsils entirely.
  • You have sleep apnea: Your tonsils can occasionally cause breathing problems, most commonly in the form of sleep apnea. When your airways become obstructed while you sleep, this is called sleep apnea (this can cause some restless nights, including heavy snoring, and in rare instances even death). The airways will be clear when the tonsils are gone and you will get a more peaceful night’s sleep.

The upsides and the downsides of a tonsillectomy

As with any surgical procedure, there are pluses and minuses in terms of tonsillectomy. What those advantages and disadvantages look like will depend on the reason your tonsils are extracted in the first place.

But there are some disadvantages to surgery. So what are the disadvantages of tonsillectomy in adults? Here are some of the most common:

  • Recovery: It may take some time to recover from your tonsillectomy. Even though the surgery will most likely take place on an outpatient basis, that doesn’t mean the pain will recede in a day. Usually, tonsillectomy recovery will take 10-14 days.
  • Complications: Tonsillectomy, like any surgery, comes with a risk of complications. Your provider can help you better comprehend these complications.
  • Discomfort: How painful is tonsil surgery in adults? It’s not unusual for this surgery to cause some discomfort. Some evidence indicates that children often feel less pain from this surgery than adults (although the reasons for this are not well described).

Is a tonsillectomy right for you?

So, is there really any advantage to extracting an adult’s tonsils? Each case needs to be taken on an individual basis. It depends on your general health, your symptoms, and what your doctor thinks you should do.

In many cases, a tonsillectomy can signify a positive path forward and improve your overall wellness. If you’re having chronic sore throats, are dealing with sleep apnea, or are worried about your tonsil health, give us a call today.


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.