A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils (two oval-shaped pads located in the back of the throat on each side). A tonsillectomy is needed when an individual has recurring episodes of tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils) or an infection that has not gotten better with other treatment. In some cases, a tonsillectomy may be performed if enlarged tonsils block normal breathing. This can lead to problems such as sleep apnea and difficulty eating. Occasionally, a tonsillectomy may be performed to treat cancer.
A tonsillectomy is much more common for children than for adults. The surgery is most often an outpatient procedure and uses a general anesthetic.
An adenoidectomy is the surgical removal or cautery of the adenoid tissue. Adenoids are a pad of tissue in the back of the throat, behind the nose that help fight ear, nose, and throat infections. The majority of adenoidectomies are performed in children. The adenoids usually shrink by adolescence, so adults rarely undergo the procedure.
An adenoidectomy may be needed if the adenoids become infected and swell up, blocking the nose and making it difficult to breathe. Swollen adenoids may also result in sleep apnea, chronic snoring, ear infections, and difficulty swallowing. Adenoidectomies are usually performed on an outpatient basis using a general anesthetic.
Swollen adenoids are often associated with tonsillitis and may be removed as part of an operation to remove the tonsils. This procedure is called an adenotonsillectomy.