Tonsillectomy (cont.)

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What takes place the day of surgery?

It is important that the patient (or caregiver) knows precisely what time they are to check in with the surgical facility, and that they allow sufficient preparation time. Bring all papers, forms, and insurance information including the preoperative orders and history sheets. The patient should wear comfortable loose fitting clothes, (pajamas are OK). Leave all jewelry and valuables at home. Children may bring a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket.

The patient should not take any medication unless instructed by the doctor or anesthesiologist. Usually in the pre-operative holding room, a nurse will start an intravenous infusion line (IV) and the patient may be given a medication to help them relax.

What happens during surgery?

In the operating room, the anesthesiologist will usually use a mixture of gas and an intravenous medication for the general anesthetic. In most situations, an IV will have been started either in the preoperative holding room or after the patient has been given a mask anesthetic. During the procedure, the patient will be continuously monitored by a pulse oximeter (measuring oxygen saturation) and a continuous heart rate monitor. The surgical team is well trained and prepared for any emergency. In addition to the surgeon and anesthesiologist, there will be a nurse and a surgical technician in the room.

After the anesthetic takes effect, the doctor will remove the tonsils and/or adenoids through the mouth. There will be no external incisions. The base of the tonsils and/or adenoids will be burned (cauterized) with an electrical cauterizing unit. The whole procedure usually takes less than 60 minutes. The doctor will come to the waiting room to talk with any family or friends once the patient is safely transferred to the recovery room.

What happens after surgery?

After surgery, the patient will be taken to the recovery room where a nurse will monitor them. Relatives are generally invited into the recovery room as the patient becomes aware of their surroundings, and if the patient is a child, they will be looking for his or her parent(s) or caregiver. The patient, will be able to go home the same day as the surgery once they have fully recovered from the anesthetic. This usually takes several hours. The patient will need a friend or family member to pick them up from the surgical facility to take them home. A relative, caregiver, or friend should spend the first night after surgery with the patient.

When the patient arrives home from the surgical facility, they should go to bed and rest with the head elevated on 2-3 pillows. Keeping the head elevated above the heart minimizes edema and swelling. Applying an ice pack to the neck may help decrease swelling. The patient may get out of bed with assistance to use the bathroom. Visitors should be kept to a minimum since they may unknowingly expose the patient to infection, or cause over excitement. If the patient is constipated, avoid straining and take a stool softener or a gentle laxative.

Once the patient has recovered from the anesthetic, if tolerable, a light, soft, and cool diet is recommended. Avoid hot liquids for several days. Even though the patient may be hungry immediately after surgery, it is best to feed slowly to prevent postoperative nausea and vomiting. Occasionally, the patient may vomit one or two times immediately after surgery. However, if it persists, the doctor may prescribe medications to settle the stomach. It is important to remember that a good overall diet with ample rest promotes healing. Weight loss is very common following a tonsillectomy. The patient need not worry about nutritional requirements during the recovery so long as they are drinking adequate amounts of fluid.

The patient may be prescribed antibiotics after surgery. The patient should take all of the antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. Some form of a narcotic will also be prescribed (usually acetaminophen/Tylenol with codeine), and is to be taken as needed. If the patient requires narcotics he or she is cautioned not to drive. If the patient has nausea or vomiting postoperatively, the patient may be prescribed anti-emesis medications such as promethazine (Phenergan) or ondansetron (Zofran). If the patient or caregivers have any questions or feel the patient is developing a reaction to any of these medications, a doctor should be consulted. Patients should not take or give any other medications, either prescribed or over-the-counter, unless they have been discussed them the doctor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/9/2014

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