Tonsillectomy / Sleep Apnea Surgery

Obstructive sleep apnea can be both irritating to a bed partner, but also dangerous to the person experiencing the apnea episodes. We always insist that our patients undergo a sleep study prior to recommending any surgery, but a tonsillectomy is one option for the treatment of this condition. Tonsils are glands found at the base of the throat, and when they become enlarged, they can contribute to blocked airways that lead to sleep apnea. Unfortunately, a tonsillectomy in adults can be extremely painful, requiring a recovery period of at least two weeks, so our post-operative instructions need to be carefully followed.

Pre / Post Operative Instructions For Tonsillectomy

Dietary: Avoid citrus fruit juices (orange, lemon, etc.), spicy and highly seasoned foods, crunchy foods (popcorn, chips).

First Day: Drink lots of water and other fluids, gelatin, popsicles, sherberts. Milk products and ice cream are not recommended because they may not be easily swallowed or digested. Dehydration will cause increased pain and fever.

Second Day: Continue with lots of fluids, adding milk products, ice cream, milkshakes, puddings, soft cereal, creamed soups, and soft-cooked eggs.

Third Day: More soft foods may be added as the patient tolerates and desires. Foods should be easy to chew and soft to swallow.

General Instructions

  • Take the medication prescribed for pain as directed.
  • Gargles are NOT recommended except for crushed ice in water as it may give relief for discomfort.
  • Pain medication every 4 hours while awake the first 24 hours after surgery. After 3 to 4 days of pain medication, you may switch to regular Tylenol. Take as needed.
  • A mouth odor is commonly present for several days, and may be resolved by drinking lots of fluids. Brush teeth at least twice daily. A white film over the areas where the tonsils were removed is also common.
  • An ice collar or cold compress to the neck may be soothing, but is not necessary if not comfortable to the patient.
  • Chewing gum in older children may help with the pain by providing saliva production and increasing moisture.

Normal Problems

  • Ear Pain: This is due to pain fibers in the tonsil region. Pain medication and the use of throat medication may help. NOTE: This pain may last a week or more.
  • Low Grade Fever: Fevers, less than 101 degrees F (38.5 C), are normal and should respond to fluid and Tylenol.
  • White Patches in the Tonsillar Region: These are the scabs that form after the tonsils are removed. They should fall off within approximately 7-10 days.
  • Small Streaks of blood in the saliva and nasal mucous.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting within the first 48 hours after surgery is normal. It may look dark brown or black in color and should not have bright red blood or clots.

Abnormal Problems

  • Increase in Fever (102 degrees F) If fever increases to 102 F or above, and/or dark urine occurs, this is usually an indication that the patient is not drinking enough fluids.
  • Bleeding: CALL THE OFFICE IMMEDIATELY If you are not able to contact the office, go directly to the emergency room and they will contact Dr. Daube.