Tonsil removal (tonsillectomy)

Your tonsils are lymph nodes located at the back of your throat on either side. They’re part of the body’s immune system. When they get inflamed, swollen and infected, it’s called tonsillitis.

It’s not unusual for children aged 5-10 years and teenagers up to 20-year-olds to have frequent throat infections or tonsillitis. It gets less common as you age.

Children are referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon at Circle Reading only if certain criteria are met. The criteria are published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Your GP will refer your child if the bouts of tonsillitis are so regular and severe that they affect your child’s attendance at school or university. Or if they have a history of sleep apnoea.

Circle Reading’s specialist ENT surgeons (otolaryngologists) have successfully performed hundreds of tonsil removal operations (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoid removal procedures.

We will only take them out if the national guidelines are met.

These lymph tissues lie at the back of the nose and can become large and infected, too. Unlike tonsils, you can’t see your child’s adenoids by looking into their mouth.

Adenoid removal is called an adenoidectomy. If both adenoids and tonsils are removed, the operation is an adenotonsillectomy.

Your ENT surgeon will decide whether your child needs their tonsils and/or adenoids removed if:

  • The tonsils or adenoids are so large they’re causing obstructive sleep apnoea (sleep disturbance with severe snoring and breath holding)
  • Your child is getting five bouts or more each year of acute tonsillitis and sore throats
  • Symptoms have been going on for at least a year and were well documented
  • The episodes prevent your child from functioning normally

Your ENT surgeon will greet you and bring you into their consultation room for an examination and talk about your child’s history of tonsillitis.

They will discuss your treatment options, which may include tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy for sleep disturbance.

We also have excellent ultrasound equipment to look at lumps and bumps in the neck (lymph nodes). In 99% of cases, the lymph nodes are found to be normal and surgery isn’t required but we can do so if necessary.

  • Your child’s anaesthetist will give them a general anaesthetic
  • The operation is performed by your ENT surgeon through your child’s mouth
  • It takes up to an hour to perform the operation
  • Surgical methods vary, depending on your child’s age

Both adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy operations can result in bleeding or infection, but neither are common.


Around the removed tonsil area after the operation (less than half a per cent). If it happens, your child will be readmitted to Circle Hospital and treated with fluids and antibiotics. Sometimes they will return to theatre, but it’s rare.


About 20 per cent of patients get an infection, which will be treated with antibiotics by their GP.

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH