Tonsillectomy is an operation done to remove the tonsils. It is more commonly performed in children than in adults. Like any other surgery, tonsillectomy has risks. The problems that can arise particularly in adults include bleeding, pain, problems with anesthesia and delayed recovery.
Abnormal bleeding is more common in adults than in children. According to experts at Mayo Clinic, one in five adults has a bleeding that will not stop. Bleeding can arise within 24 hours or as long as a week after the operation due to the scab falling off. Additional surgery may be necessary to control the bleeding. Occasionally, the bleeding may be so severe that blood transfusion is needed. Very rarely, death can occur: 1 in 40,000 patients die due to severe bleeding following tonsil surgery.
Bacteria can colonize the area where the tonsils are removed. To prevent infection, a course of antibiotics is usually prescribed following surgery.
In adults, pain can be severe and typically lasts for up to two weeks. Adults can become dehydrated if they do not drink enough after the surgery.
Injury to the surrounding structures can occur in both adults and children. Lips, teeth, tongue and jaw can be traumatized while applying the instruments during surgery. Rarely, there are complaints of changes in the voice, bad taste in the mouth and regurgitation of fluids from the nose.
The risks of anesthesia are greater in adults because they may have associated heart or lung problems. If anesthesia has to be given again for emergency surgery to stop bleeding, there can be problems with aspiration of fluids or food.