Jerome List, MD, DDS, with Alaska Ear Nose & Throat in Anchorage, Alaska, is board-certified in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, which includes the removal of the tonsils. Tonsillectomies are not as common as they used to be but still are required in some cases. Dr. List evaluates each patient individually and creates a custom treatment plan that, for some, will include this procedure.
Tonsils are pads of lymphoid tissue that rest at the back of your throat. There are actually several different tonsils, and the combination is called the Waldeyer’s tonsillar ring. These include the:
A tonsillectomy is usually the surgical removal of the palatine tonsils.
Tonsils help protect your body from pathogens entering through your throat. They are the sentries of the immune system, which is one reason doctors try not to remove them unless absolutely necessary. Tonsils have an antigen on the surface of the cells that detects certain pathogens and initiates an immune system response.
A tonsillectomy is a treatment option for infected or inflamed tonsils. Although once performed routinely on children, today, tonsillectomies are only performed after other treatment options fail or if the swelling is interfering with breathing. Dr. List may recommend this surgery for patients who have recurring tonsillitis, enlarged tonsils or bleeding that will not stop from the tonsil surface.
Tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils. It often happens in response to bacterial or viral infections. The location and function of the tonsils make them vulnerable to infection and irritation that can lead to swelling or tonsillitis.
Physicians will often suggest surgical removal if the patient experiences tonsillitis more than seven times a year, with more cases reported in previous years. The procedure is also recommended if there’s a bacterial infection that fails to respond to treatment or if pus builds up behind the tonsil, creating an abscess. Your tonsils can also become cancerous, although that’s rare.
This is an invasive surgical procedure, but it can be performed on an outpatient basis to avoid hospitalization unless there are complications. Dr. List will remove the tonsils with a blade, high-energy heat, or even sound waves while you’re under general anesthesia. You can expect to be in bed for several days after your procedure. At first, eating will be painful, so Dr. List will recommend soft foods that soothe your throat, such as broth or even ice cream.
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