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Adenoidectomy is the surgical removal of the adenoids, which are small lumps of soft tissue found at the back of the nose in children. 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 a child’s immune system and help protect their nose and throat from infection. But the adenoids can also get infected themselves, and 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 your child for an adenoidectomy.

For example, they 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, so your child will have no awareness or pain during the operation. 

The surgeon will remove the adenoid tissue through the child’s open mouth. This usually takes about 30 minutes.

What to expect after an adenoidectomy

Your child will recover from the general anaesthetic in an hour or so, although the anaesthetic might make them feel tired and sick and they will have a sore throat. 

They will be encouraged to drink and eat light foods when they can, and will need to drink before they 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.

Your child should rest for a day or two, then they can go back to their normal activities.

For a few days - or maybe even weeks - they 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 your child has:

  • a high fever (above 38°C)
  • bright red bleeding from the nose or mouth
  • 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: February 2018

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