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Adeno-tonsillectomy (child)

3-minute read

This page will give you information about an adeno-tonsillectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.

What are the adenoids and tonsils?

The adenoids and tonsils are part of a group of lymphoid tissues (like the glands in the neck) that help to fight off infection from germs that are breathed in or swallowed.

The adenoids and tonsils enlarge naturally in children at around the age of 3 and usually shrink away again by the age of 7.

The enlarged adenoids can result in a blocked or runny nose and may make your child snore.

Tonsillitis happens if the tonsils become infected. This causes pain, fever and difficulty swallowing and can make your child feel unwell.

Illustration showing how an enlarged adenoid can obstruct breathing.
An enlarged adenoid can obstruct breathing.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your child should get relief from a blocked or runny nose, and may get a better quality of sleep.

The operation prevents tonsillitis but will not prevent all sore throats.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Your doctor may be able to give you steroid nasal sprays to improve your child’s symptoms of a blocked nose and reduce the size of the adenoids.

There are no other treatments for enlarged adenoids other than to leave them alone and wait for the problem to get better.

Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about 30 minutes.

Your surgeon will remove the adenoids and tonsils through your child’s mouth.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)

Specific complications

  • adenoid tissue regrowing
  • small pieces of the tonsil may be left behind
  • lingual tonsillitis

How soon will my child recover?

Your child should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

Your child will need to stay off school and away from groups of people for 2 weeks. This is to help prevent throat infections while your child’s throat is still healing.

Most children make a full recovery and return to normal activities.


Enlarged adenoids are a common problem that usually do not need treatment. For those children who have a very blocked nose or disturbed sleep, an operation should give them a better quality of life.

If left untreated, tonsillitis can cause complications. Surgery is the only dependable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps on coming back.

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

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

Last reviewed: September 2018

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