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Adenoidectomy

3-minute read

Adenoidectomy is the surgical removal of the adenoids, which are small lumps of soft tissue found at the back of the nose. It is a short and safe procedure, but your child will have a sore throat for a couple of days.

Why is an adenoidectomy performed?

The adenoids are part of the immune system and help protect the nose and throat from infection. They are often quite large in young children and grow smaller with age. The adenoids may disappear during teenage years.

The adenoids can also get infected. If that happens frequently, it can cause problems such as:

If these problems are serious and they continue, your doctor might recommend an adenoidectomy for your child. Sometimes, adenoids are also removed when a child is having their tonsils out or grommets inserted for a glue ear since these conditions are all related.

illustration of enlarged adenoid
An enlarged adenoid can cause breathing and sleep problems.

How to prepare for an adenoidectomy

You should follow any guidelines your hospital or clinic provides on how to prepare for an adenoidectomy.

For example, you or your child will be asked not to eat or drink some hours before the operation. Learn more about preparing for surgery here.

What happens during an adenoidectomy

An adenoidectomy is performed under a general anaesthetic.

The surgeon removes the adenoid tissue through the open mouth. This usually takes about 30 minutes.

What to expect after an adenoidectomy

After an adenoidectomy, it takes about an hour to recover from the general anaesthetic, although the anaesthetic might cause nausea and a sore throat.

You or your child will be encouraged to drink and eat light foods when you can, and will need to drink before you go home. Children can often go home on the day of the surgery, but they might be asked to stay overnight. 

Their throat will probably be sore for a day or two, and the pain can be treated with medication, as recommended by your doctor. If the tonsils are also removed, they will have more pain and it will last longer.

You or your child should rest for a day or 2, then they can go back to their normal activities.

For a few days — or maybe even weeks — someone who has had an adenoidectomy might still have:

  • a blocked nose
  • a smelly nose
  • a light, blood-stained discharge

What could go wrong?

Adenoidectomy is a safe procedure, but all surgery has some risks. Contact your doctor if you or your child has:

  • a high fever (above 38°C)
  • bright red bleeding from the nose or mouth
  • has more than a teaspoon of blood in the vomit
  • vomits more than 3 or 4 times
  • can't eat or drink
  • serious pain that isn’t relieved by pain-killers

More information

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network: Adenoidectomy.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2020


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