Does My Child Need a Tonsillectomy?
Medical Author: Melissa Stöppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Tonsillectomy, the surgical removal of masses of lymphoid tissue located in the back of the mouth, may have seemed like a childhood rite of passage for many children of previous generations. Tonsillectomy became a popular treatment for recurrent sore throats and respiratory infections as early as the 1800s, and its frequency peaked in the United States in the late 1950s to the 1970s. Today, doctors are more conservative in recommending tonsillectomy. The number of tonsillectomies performed in the United States has declined from over 1 million per year in the 1970s, to about 250,000 per year, due to growing skepticism in the medical community about the utility of tonsillectomy for infection control.
Often performed in conjunction with removal of the adenoid (a mass of lymphoid tissue located behind the nasal passages), tonsillectomy is a minor surgical procedure that is generally well-tolerated. Nevertheless, rare complications such as infection or bleeding may occur following surgery, and an absence from school for seven to ten days is usually required.