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Adenoid removal is surgery to remove the adenoids. (This surgery is also called adenoidectomy.) The adenoids are above and behind the roof of the mouth, where the nose and mouth join. The adenoids work with the tonsils to help defend the body against infection. However, in some cases, they may cause breathing problems and need to be removed.

What is an Adenoidectomy?

The adenoids are above and behind the roof of the mouth, where the nose and mouth join. The adenoids work with the tonsils to help defend the body against infection. The adenoids will begin to shrink around ages 5 to 7 in children. The adenoids are usually completely gone by the time children reach adolescence.

The adenoids can become swollen or enlarged due to infections. Some children may also be born with abnormally large adenoids. When the adenoids become enlarged, they can cause breathing problems in children. The breathing problems can lead to snoring and even sleep apnea (a condition when children will briefly stop breathing during sleep). Adenoid problems can also cause chronic swelling of the tonsils and repeated ear infections.

If the enlarged adenoids are affecting your child’s quality of life, a healthcare provider will likely recommend the adenoids be removed. Adenoid removal is a short surgical procedure that is usually done in a hospital or surgical center. An ear, nose, and throat surgeon (called an otolaryngologist) will perform the surgery. In some cases, the child’s tonsils may also be removed during the surgery.

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Risks from an adenoid removal are rare but can include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Failure to resolve the breathing problems
  • Risks associated with anesthesia
  • Permanent changes in the child’s voice

Side effects from the surgery and anesthesia can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Dehydration

What are the benefits?

Most often, children recover quickly after an adenoid removal with no complications. The surgery is safe, and your child should be able to breathe easier following the operation.

How do I prepare?

Be sure to explain to your child why they need the procedure. You may even have your child pack a bag with their favorite toys and blankets to bring to the hospital the day of the surgery.

Your child’s surgeon will provide instructions to you before the surgery. If you have any concerns or questions, be sure to discuss these with the surgeon.

Your child should not take any anti-inflammatory medicines (like aspirin or ibuprofen) within 10 days of surgery. These over-the-counter medicines may cause problems during operation.

How is it done or administered?

The surgery will be performed in an operating room at a hospital or surgical center so an anesthesiologist can keep your child as safe as possible. You will be given instructions on when to arrive and what to expect when you check in.

  • Your child will receive general anesthesia so that he or she will sleep comfortably during the procedure.
  • Your child will be asleep for about 30–40 minutes. This is how long the operation will take.
  • The surgeon can reach your child’s adenoids through your child’s open mouth. There is no need to make an opening in the skin. After removing the adenoids, the surgeon seals the blood vessels to stop bleeding.
  • After the surgery, your child will be taken to a recovery area where he or she will be monitored as they wake up.

Usually, the total time in the hospital is about 4–8 hours. Children younger than 3 years old or with other medical conditions such as seizure disorders or cerebral palsy may stay overnight for monitoring.

After surgery, your child will be tired for several days. Many children are restless and may not sleep through the night. This should improve over 7-14 days. Your child may also have a small fever for a few days after surgery. Give your child plenty of fluids to help keep the fever down. If the fever rises above 101.5°F, call the doctor.

When will I know the results?

Your child’s surgeon will discuss the results of the adenoid removal following the procedure. It may take a few weeks to notice any changes to your child’s condition. Your child may experience a sore throat, earaches, or a stuffy nose while recovering. These symptoms are usually temporary as your child’s body heals from the surgery.

What are follow-up requirements and options?

You should receive instructions after the surgery if your child needs a follow-up appointment following an adenoidectomy. If you are unclear, call the surgeon’s clinic or your child’s pediatrician for instructions.