To remove tonsils or not to remove?

My 11-year-old has always had large tonsils but this year they have become gigantic tonsils.

My only experience with tonsillectomy was the episode of “The Brady Bunch” where Marcia and Mrs. Brady had their tonsils out. The crux of it was they got to eat a lot of ice cream.

I didn’t feel like the surgery was a big deal and was learning toward it until I talked to the surgeon.

It’s only a 30-minute surgery. They do knock them out (which I figured) but they also put them on a ventilator, which totally freaks me out!!!

You may remember that when my brother had his heart transplant two summers ago, he was on a ventilator for a very long time and they couldn’t get him off. He had a lot of swallowing issues and bleeding out that may have been related to the long time he was on the ventilator. Now granted he was on it for weeks at a time, multiple times, so I know it’s different than being on it for 30 minutes. But it’s still bothering me. (Did your kid have the ventilator for the surgery or is that a new thing?)

I was also surprised by the recovery time. He said she would be two weeks with no physical activity or travel. He said if they did it during the school year, she would out of school for two weeks. So you pretty much have to do this in the summer or I guess Christmas break.

I had no idea the recovery would take that long!!

I wrote to my neighbor the pediatric surgeon and am meeting with our pediatrician this week to discuss but I wanted to hear about your experiences with tonsillectomies, kids being knocked out and kids on ventilators. Tell me your thoughts o this surgery.

62 comments Add your comment

Just Another day

June 6th, 2012
6:43 am

You would rather have him on the vent for a few minutes than to stop breathing. My 17 year old still has his tonsils but has had several surguries over the years and has don fine with all of them. They will never let you see that as the parent. They are awake when they leave you and groggy when they let you see them in recovery.

shaggy

June 6th, 2012
6:45 am

Just get a long handled Exacto knife, some 90% alcohol, a small bottle of nu-skin, and a sturdy stick to prop that little mouth open. It will be over in a flash, and think of the money you will save, plus no anxiety about anesthesia or the ventilator ;0)
I hope your brother is doing well.

malleesmom

June 6th, 2012
7:23 am

Have you gotten a second opinion; seen an ENT? We did that when facing removing tonsils for our oldest. The second option said “no”. Explained why and we went with that. Our oldest still has her tonsils. Just a thought…..

anne

June 6th, 2012
7:28 am

My daughter had her tonsils and adenoids out at the start of 4th grade. I scheduled the surgery the Friday just before the Labor Day holiday. She was back at school on Tuesday. The surgeon did want her to take it easy in PE that week, but that was the extent of limitations after surgery. My daughter also had huge tonsils for quite a while before she had them removed, but it was the best thing for her. We’re both glad she had it done.

Long Gone

June 6th, 2012
7:28 am

I had my tonsils removed a LONG time ago (I was 4) and most of the problems kids had growing up I never shared because of it.

I can completely understand your feelings but quit being a wuss and think of what’s best for the kid. Ventilators are standard under general anesthesia.

Quite standing in your child’s way of getting better!

Class of 1990

June 6th, 2012
7:31 am

Interesting…. “My 11 year old”…. and not OUR 11 year old. Not too many comments about Michael either in a long time. Having fun in Arizona?

gatormom

June 6th, 2012
7:32 am

Better now than as an adult. Got mine out in my 20s and I was out of work about a week and a half. Honestly, I would NOT habe done it if I need what the recovery would be like.

Kids bounce back MUCH quicker. I would say a week out would cover it- and they will probably be driving you crazy at home!

Definitely get a 2nd opinion.

Augusta

June 6th, 2012
7:44 am

DO IT NOW!!!! I had mine taken out when I was 4, no problems. My brother, has his removed at 26, HUGE PROBLEMS!!! he was out of commission for a week. He had to fly to Utah where our parents were living at the time, so mom could take care of him.

He had so many issues with Strep throat, years, and years and years so they finally scheduled him for the surgery. They should have done it when he was younger, and he wouldn’t have had to suffer so long!!!!

My advice is do it now, and don’t worry about the ventilator…..there’s a reason they use it. But that gives you something to WORRY about so you can stress out. Some people thrive on stress and drama and I am convinced Theresa is their leader!!!!

sp

June 6th, 2012
7:48 am

As you get older, the recovery time get’s longer and longer… I did mine at the age of 32 because of apnea. I still had pain and issues for a month. My daughter also had hers done at age 4 and from what I remember the “ventilator” was just ventilation tubes to allow breathing (not really there to assist breathing) . It also being a short surgery, there shouldn’t be any dependence on it..

I would definitely see a specialist (i.e. an ENT) for this – and get it done sooner or later. Large tonsils will affect breathing, sleeping, etc… Also this would definitely help prevent high blood pressure, metabolism, apnea, and a whole bunch of problems as he gets older…

motherjanegoose

June 6th, 2012
7:50 am

I had mine out in Kinder but that was over 45 years ago. I did enjoy popsicles and ice cream.
My kids still have theirs. I agree that going to the ENT is a good idea. Good luck!

Jeff

June 6th, 2012
7:54 am

In the 7th grade, my father went in to have his tonsils taken out (so his mother told him) and when he woke up, turns out he had been circumsized.

justmy2cents

June 6th, 2012
8:10 am

I had mine out when I was about 5 or 6. There was no 2 week recovery period that I recall. Lots of popsicles/pudding/ice cream/apple sauce. I had strep throat CONSTANTLY as a kid, which prompted the surgery. Only had it 1 time since then. Just do the surgery and get it over with. You’ll stress more than the child.

FCM

June 6th, 2012
8:28 am

Younger one needs her checked…they are ginormous! I will have to see about them getting out over one of the breaks this school year.

No real experience with it personally though.

Janice

June 6th, 2012
8:36 am

whenever they put you under they put you on a vent.

i had my tonsills out over 45 yrs ago…that was standard operation for kids back then. remember popscicles and the soft food for a week or so. had to keep quiet to let throat heal. i’m sure recovery time today is a lot quicker and procedure is easier than it was 45 yrs ago.

most of my friends growing up had then out during summer break from school.

now that i have sinus issues i question the aenoids removal. wonder if sinuses would not be such a massive part of my life if they were still there.

t&a was common surgery in the 60’s.

Just remember this is MAJOR surgery...

June 6th, 2012
8:37 am

…any surgery involving anesthesia that knocks you out is major – and the worst complication I have heard of was in a then 12 year old friend whose tonsils were sideways, unbeknownst to the surgeon, who severed them and the kid about bled to death – fortunately the MD and nurses acted quickly but the kid had a very difficult recovery (about 10 days in the hospital), though all turned out well…

So, your paranoia in this instance is well founded, for once…

homeschooler

June 6th, 2012
8:39 am

I recently heard of someone’s child being out of school for two weeks b/c of tonsils. Can’t remember who but I was shocked. Upon talking to several other moms I learned this is normal. I always thought it was a simple procedure simple recovery. I guess it is but there are reasons to be extra cautious after the surgery. Never heard of the vent. but I’m sure it is standard procedure. I would definitely have it done. I have a close friend who is a nurse and she practically demanded her daughter’s tonsils be removed at 6 because of cronic throat issues. The doc. kept stalling and she pushed and pushed until it was done. Problems went away.
My kids have never had problems but if they did, I wouldn’t hesitate having them removed.

Monica L.

June 6th, 2012
8:59 am

After I had mine removed, I became so much more popular at school.

Soccermom

June 6th, 2012
9:05 am

I had my tonsils taken out at age 21 after a lifetime of recurrent strep infections, tonsillitis, those awful deep pockets of debris that are uncomfortable and make your mouth taste bad and your breath stink, and tonsils that were so enlarged that, when I did get sick, I had very little space between them to breathe and swallow. Everyone warned me that the recovery time would be awful. That was NOT true. It was a breeze.

Then, some 20+ years later, my younger child, who was 16 and in high school, started having recurrent strep infections, tonsillitis, and upper respiratory problems too, culminating in over 7 boughts of illness in one school year. It made staying current in classes a nightmare!! We had his tonsils taken out that next summer and he has had NO infections of any sort since then. It was a very good decision for us.

KJohn

June 6th, 2012
9:13 am

So, it won’t really be 2 weeks. Assuming all things go as planned (and they will) then your child will recover amazingly quickly. About 5 to 7 days into the recovery, the scabs start falling off and your child will be in too much pain to function in school and just needs to sleep and get lots of hugs. That is the only dificult part of the recovery and it won’t last more than 1 or 2 days. Our son contracted strep numberous times and then scarlet fever twice when he was 4. He would just keep contracting strep over and over. He had the surgery before kindergarten and is now 13 and really has never had a cold again let alone strep. He is going into 8th grade and has missed 3 days of school ever and 2 were due to family vacation.

homeschooler

June 6th, 2012
9:23 am

@ FCM .. posted something to you on yesterday’s topic about the home alone thing. Just thought I’d let you know.

Denise

June 6th, 2012
9:30 am

I got mine out at 12 but I was not out of commission for 2 weeks. It was a few days at most. Had to eat soft foods for about a week. That is when I discovered that I hate Cream of Wheat. Even if it had been 2 weeks of recovery, it would have been better than all the infections I had in my tonsils.

YellsBells&Smells

June 6th, 2012
9:48 am

I went through this with my ex wife when she was in her mid 20s and my wife now when she was in her early 30s. It is a very difficult recovery for an adult.

The doctors explained that as we age the tonsils begin to fuse to the back of the throat and they have to cut more to remove them. When we are kids they simply just hang there held on by a much smaller area. Think about picking a piece of fruit off a tree versus carving out melon balls.

So the conventional wisdom was, if it needs to be done, better to do it sooner than later.

Emma

June 6th, 2012
9:53 am

The vent does do damage on its way in and out. Usually people complain about a sore or dry throat. A 30 min surgery does not sound like it would be too bad.

I’ve been told the earlier you get tonsils out, the better. The recovery time is shorter, and younger kids bounce back. If you will ever have to do it, do it now rather than later. In my experience, they can go to school after about a week, just be careful how active they are.
Definitely get a second opinion, but don’t be scared by the surgeons instructions. Being on a vent for minor surgery does not mean weeks and weeks of not coming off- its very different than your other experience. And your child will bounce back with all the delicious popcicles you give!

motherjanegoose

June 6th, 2012
9:53 am

@ Denise…I do not think southerners like cream of wheat…haha! I do, as I grew up in Chicago. When my son was little, he spent some time with his cousins and my sister fixed oatmeal. He complained that he did not eat oatmeal. I laughed and told him that he ate whatever they were having, since he was at their house.

@homeschooler, I read your comment on VBS…I misunderstood you…thanks!

Denise

June 6th, 2012
10:13 am

@MJG – Cream of Wheat is of the devil! LOLLLLLL :-) Give me grits and oatmeal every day and I’ll be happy as a lark. (Southern roots are showing, huh?)

Voice of Reason

June 6th, 2012
10:54 am

Have you asked your 11 year old what they want to do?

Doctors have been doing tonsillectomies for a long time now and I honestly cannot remember a single instance where someone has died during surgery.

I would play the odds myself.

Augusta

June 6th, 2012
11:04 am

Well duh, if you ask an 11 year old what they want, they are going to tell you NO!!! They have no say in the matter. If the tonsills have to come out, an adult will make that decision.

Clive Buttons

June 6th, 2012
11:07 am

Leave ‘em in. They are there for a purpose. When I was young, mine would get huge, get pus pockets on them, and all the rest. Doc told my mom and me they probably should come out. That was in 1969. I still have them and they never get swollen or sore anymore. When I get a sore throat it is always above or below them. I hear it gets this way as we age. I remember my wise old high school teacher who was also the daughter of an MD. She said you should never remove the tonsil unless as a last resort. I think she was right.

Voice of Reason

June 6th, 2012
11:29 am

An 11 year old, who is just 2 years away from being a teenager, knows that they don’t want to be sick, and if they do get sick, they want to get better as fast as possible.

Removing their tonsils will, in all likelihood, reduce their chances of getting sick.

The kids decision should not be the end-all-be-all, that’s not what I’m saying, but they should be able to voice their opinion. It might help them cope a little better, who knows? It sure as hell can’t hurt to ask.

motherjanegoose

June 6th, 2012
11:46 am

@ Voice of Reason…I am questioning your voice today….neither of mine really wanted their wisdom teeth out and they were both in their teens. I got mine out at 40, so they got theirs out when they lived at home. Most all of their friends got theirs out too.

My daughter ( in college) did not want to get her flu shot. She mentioned, this year, that none of her room mates got one. After arguing, my husband and I said, ” O.K. you do not have to get your flu shot but if you do get the flu ( from being exposed a a billion different germs at UGA) you are on your own. It is likely your roommates will not want to get near you to help you out, as they did not get their shot and so you will REALLY be on your own…in your apt….an hour away from us.” Guess what,she got her flu shot.

zeke

June 6th, 2012
11:46 am

Funny how our medicals are so advanced. When me and my brother had ours out at 4 and 5, about 60 years ago, it was done late in the day, overnight at the clinic/hospital, and home the next morning with no restrictions on activities! NO PROBLEMS!

Augusta

June 6th, 2012
12:00 pm

MJG – I have not had a flu shot since 1993. I have NEVER gotten the flu…..

As a matter of fact, not one of my four kids has EVER had a flu shot…..Guess what?……Not one of them has ever had the flu. My kids hardly ever get sick. I have been blessed in that department.

shaggy

June 6th, 2012
12:06 pm

Voice of Reason,

Who cares what an 11 year old child “wants”, except to coddle the little brat, yes it’s a brat if it has to be consulted on what they “want”.
Hell, mine “wanted” a tattoo, but after telling him that I was very serious about the removal of tattos with a blowtorch, and would be happy to do the jail time, while he and his mom went homeless, it passed into the wind.

Step up and parent. Learn the definition of c-h-i-l-d

BRC

June 6th, 2012
12:31 pm

You haven’t said if the huge tonsils are a health problem. I know a family in which the mother and son have both been told by their doctors that they have large tonsils, relative to the “norm.” Neither one has throat related health issues; the mother has never had strep throat and she is retirement age. If the only thing wrong with the tonsils is that they seem large, I say leave them in if no other issues arise.

newly Wed

June 6th, 2012
12:48 pm

Getting my tonsils & adnoids taken out was the best decision my parents made. I was sent home from school the first day of Kindergarten with Strep throat and from then on I would catch it everytime someone at the school sneezed :) My pediatrician did not believe in taking my tonsils out. He instead wanted to do an allergy test. After a lot of time and pain, the results came back with no allergic reations. My parents decided to get a second opinion from an ENT. The doctor recommended they remove my tonsils as they we very large and inflamed, but also stated that ultimately it was my parents decision. My parents asked how I felt about it and of course i said “no”! But they decided it was in my best interest.

I was 11 when i had the surgery. My parents scheduled the surgery the Friday before spring break. Obviously that was not a very fun spring break for me, but i was able to spend 9 days recovering without missing any school. I went back that monday and for 1 week i did not participate in PE.

I went from being the child that was always sick and having to miss school in kindergarten-4th grade to having perfect attendance 5th-8th. I rarely get sick now (knock on wood) and I feel so much has to do with the fact that my tonsils were finally removed.

BaBaBinx

June 6th, 2012
12:54 pm

Do it! I did it several years ago at 33 and I would do it again in a heartbeat. For a year prior, I had recurring tonsillitis and sinus infections and honestly was on antibiotics every three weeks.

The ENT took out my tonsils and fixed my deviated septum. He said it would take 10 full days to recover and he was correct. However, if you take the prescribed pain meds every four hours and keep yourself very hydrated, you’ll be fine. (I ate shaved ice the entire time.) In fact, I think I would do that again rather than recover from a normal childbirth – if that helps any of you compare recovery levels. And for the last few days of the 10 day recovery span, I had to chase a 1.5 year old while my husband was on a business trip. So in short, it’s do-able.

However, if your child is stubborn and refuses the pain meds and liquids then it likely will be a quite painful and traumatic recovery. The ENT’s advice was – never let the pain meds wear off and keep your throat hydrated. I followed the instructions and made it through by simply resting and recovering at home.

HB

June 6th, 2012
1:03 pm

If the surgery isn’t medically necessary (must not be if you’re trying to decide whether or not to do it), I don’t see why an 11-year-old’s thoughts on the matter shouldn’t be heard. Like Voice of Reason said, her say shouldn’t be the end-all, but since it’s a decision that is primarily about her comfort and quality of life, why not get her thoughts on whether the problem has made her miserable enough to go this route immediately in an effort to fix it?

RK

June 6th, 2012
1:15 pm

I had mine removed (tonsils and adenoids) when I was in middle school. This was in the mid 70’s, and it was a very common surgery. I was to eat soft foods and take it easy for about a week. I was eating fried chicken 3 days after the surgery and no problems. It is much easier on kids than adults.

Native Atlantan

June 6th, 2012
1:17 pm

Take them out while the children are young. I waited until I was 18 and felt as if I were close to dying — I was being a big baby I guess. I continue to hear that the younger kids recover more quickly.

JOD

June 6th, 2012
1:36 pm

Lots of good advice today. If they’re causing problems, get them removed. Everyone recovers differently from surgery, but why take the chance as an adult?

I had my wisdom teeth out over spring break in high school (what a great time, right?), and spent the week medicated on the couch drinking Carnation instant breakfast through a straw, but I didn’t miss any school. A boy I knew went out for cheeseburgers after he had his removed. Just shows you never know how anesthesia/surgery will affect you…

Shay

June 6th, 2012
1:39 pm

I just removed my 6 year old sons tonsils and adenoids and I don’t regret it for a second. His breathing and asthma have improved so much since then. He had about a 5 day recovery, but no rough play for 2 weeks.

Stacey

June 6th, 2012
2:08 pm

I talked to my son’s pediatrician several years ago about having his tonsils removed due to recurrent bouts of strep but the doctor was dead set against it. I followed the doctor’s advise and did not consult an ENT about and regretted it for years. As someone else said, he got strep or scarlet fever every few months because anytime any sort of respiratory illness went through the school, he caught it and it turned into strep. He got is so frequently that I could smell his breath and tell even if he wasn’t complaining of a sore throat. For a while, anytime he went to the doctor for anything they did a strep culture and 95% of the time it was positive. He’s 11 now and doesn’t get sick nearly as much as when he was younger so hopefully he has outgrown it.

I know several kids who have had their tonsils removed and almost all of them had the surgery the Friday before spring break (different years) and were able to return when school was back in session. As far as I know, none of them had complications. I have a neighbor who said her daughter’s adnoids (sp) were removed to help with her agression/temper problems. Has anyone else heard of this?

oldmom

June 6th, 2012
2:19 pm

My son had his out at 7, but the doctor didn’t think my daughter needed to have hers out. She suffered constantly with throat issues and now at 34 just had hers taken out – it is better to get them out (if they cause you trouble) when you are younger.

catlady

June 6th, 2012
2:45 pm

I wish I had had mine out! Lots of trouble over the years.

Don’t worry about the vent, Theresa. It is short and he will be out while it is in place. I would never recommend being awake with one in–it happened to me 3 years ago. Long involved story but the IV wasn’t correctly placed and it slipped out and I woke up on the table having my abdomen cut open! They gave me more and more paralytic (not realizing about the IV) and it paralyzed me and I could not breathe! I had to be awake with the vent in place and it was hell! Paralytic finally wore off so they could remove the vent. This was for a simple gall bladder removal.

None of my kids had theirs out, either. Never was mentioned.

You KNOW the ENT will come out in favor of the surgery–I would not waste time or money consulting one.

catlady

June 6th, 2012
2:45 pm

Sorry–SHE will be out.

catlady

June 6th, 2012
3:05 pm

Theresa, I would only worry about the vent if the kid had had multiple surgeries requiring one. My son did (long, long story of the grace of God) but he became hoarse and they thought it was vocal nodules from being intubed so much.

jbm

June 6th, 2012
3:15 pm

I had mine out at 6 and my daughter had hers out 2 years ago when she was 17. Only a week or less for recovery. By the 5th day she was eating pretty much what she wanted but had to chew it good. As for the meds, I had the DR prescribe pills instead of liquid pain medicine and I would crush it up and put it in her apple sauce. She said she couldn’t even taste it and apple sauce was her favorite thing to eat other than ice cream. Since then she has not even had a sore throat after years of strep. Wish we had done it earlier but the DR kept saying to wait.

Voice of Reason

June 6th, 2012
3:22 pm

“The kids decision should not be the end-all-be-all, that’s not what I’m saying, but they should be able to voice their opinion.”

Apparently, no one on here knows how to read today…..or perhaps my kids just operate on a higher level of thinking than others do.

I am only responsible for what I meant, not what you understood.

FCM

June 6th, 2012
3:27 pm

@ Homeschooler…thanks. I will go read it.

non committal mind reader

June 6th, 2012
3:54 pm

I wish I had mine out.

While useful at first, they become a liability as they get damaged from repeated infections, develop crypts, and obstruct airflow (causing snoring) as we get older.