Tonsils are soft masses of tissue located in the lower back of your throat. You probably don’t even notice them until they cause a health problem. Tonsil-related health problems are usually due to chronic infections, recurrent infections or enlargement that causes airway obstruction, such as snoring or sleep apnea. They may also include more serious concerns, like cancer.
Infected tonsils are painful and can swell, causing swallowing and breathing problems. Enlarged tonsils can become a problem when they become big enough to interfere with your breathing while you sleep.
A tonsillectomy is a surgery that our doctors may recommend to treat these health problems. In this surgery, the tonsils are removed to prevent recurring infections, swallowing problems and issues with breathing and sleeping. Typically, your body can function just fine without your tonsils.
In children, we may perform an adenoidectomy at the same time as the tonsillectomy. An adenoidectomy is a procedure to remove a child’s adenoid glands, small lumps of tissues located on the roof of their mouth, near the tonsils.
Our board-certified otolaryngologists (also known as ear, nose and throat doctors) work with you to make sure a tonsillectomy, and adenectomy if necessary, fits with the best course of treatment for you or your child’s unique needs.
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can block the throat and back of the nose, causing a number of health problems. We may recommend a tonsillectomy to treat conditions like:
- Breathing problems
- Chronic tonsil infections
- Difficulty swallowing
- Peritonsillar abscess (a buildup of pus behind the tonsils)
- Snoring or sleep problems, particularly in children
- Tonsil cancer
Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are among the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States. These surgeries are relatively short procedures, during which our surgeons will remove the tonsils and/or adenoids while you’re under anesthesia.
After the surgery is finished, you’ll be taken to a recovery room where you’ll rest and wake up from the anesthesia.
Tonsillectomy recovery takes about two weeks. For children getting this type of surgery, they will be able to return to school in about seven to ten days. To assist in the recovery process, we’ll provide detailed post-operative instructions, including a customized plan for controlling post-operative pain.
No, you or your child can visit an ENT doctor without a referral.
If your family hasn’t visited the doctor for throat concerns before, consider starting with a visit to a primary care doctor or pediatrician. Both types of doctors regularly treat common throat concerns like strep, tonsillitis and swollen tonsils. With hundreds of primary care doctors and pediatricians, you’ll be able to find expert answers at a clinic near you. To make an appointment with an ENT doctor, please choose a location and call to schedule.
Everyone gets a tonsil infection now and then. Sometimes, tonsil infections happen more often and become recurrent. Recurring infections happen when you or your child has:
- Seven or more episodes in the previous year
- Five or more episodes per year in the previous two years
- Three or more episodes per year during the previous three years
An episode is defined as having a sore throat plus at least one of the following:
- Fever higher than 100.9 degrees Fahrenheit
- Tender or enlarged lymph nodes
- Tonsillar exudate
- A positive culture/test for Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus
We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.
Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.
Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started:
- HealthPartners: 800-883-2177
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota: 800-382-2000
- CIGNA: 800-244-6224 (insurance through work); 866-494-2111 (insurance directly or through the Exchange)
- Medica: 800-952-3455
- Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
- PreferredOne: 763-847-4477 (in the Twin Cities); 800-997-1750 (outside the metro area)
- United Healthcare: 877-842-3210