From the Smarty Health Corner and CEENTA: What to expect from a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy
By our Smarty friends at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.
Parents only want the best for their children, especially when it comes to their health. Sometimes, that means your child needs surgery, like the very common tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. While the idea of your child getting anesthesia and undergoing surgery can be nerve-wracking for a parent, this month we want to tell you what they’re like and help you feel more relaxed if your child ever needs these surgeries.
Tonsils are small glands on either side of the throat and the adenoid is a small gland at the top of the throat behind the nose. Both are part of the immune system, but they have a limited role. Some people need them removed because they are frequently infected and make the person sick. Others need them removed because they are enlarged, which can cause sleep apnea, eating problems, delayed growth, constant nasal obstruction and congestion, poor alignment of teeth and abnormal facial development, and a poor disposition and irritable behavior.
CEENTA has 34 physicians providing tonsil and adenoid care. They perform surgery in a number of outpatient centers across the region. If your child needs surgery, your doctor will talk with you to find a facility convenient for you.
If your child does need surgery, the best thing you can do for them is to prepare them for a realistic expectation of the entire experience, said Lauren Hall, the Prep/Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Clinical Supervisor at the SouthPark Surgery Center in CEENTA’s Fairview Road location. Get a book from the library or reading about it on the Internet is very helpful.
“Please do not tell them they are ‘just going to the doctor,’” Ms. Hall said. “Every trip to the doctor after the surgery will then create fear and dread of medical providers due to the surprise of pain and confusion after surgery and anesthesia.”
The day of the surgery
Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are often performed together. The surgery can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on if one or both procedures are being performed.
Your child will be given general anesthesia through a mask so they sleep through the entire procedure. An anesthesiologist will constantly monitor your child while they are asleep. If your child is very scared, their doctor might give them additional medicine to help them relax.
While they don’t get a needle while awake, an IV will be started in the OR after the child goes to sleep. They will wake up in the recovery room with the IV still in their hand or foot because they need fluids and might need additional pain medication.
While you will not be allowed in the operating room with your child, surgery centers provide special waiting rooms for parents. There you’ll receive updates on your child’s procedure, and you’ll be able to see them immediately when it’s done. You can even bring along a special comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or a blanket, to give them as soon as they wake up.
After the surgery, your child should drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Water is good, but popsicles and ice cream are also beneficial. Your child may resume their normal diet, but some foods, like citrus fruits, may cause them discomfort. It is okay if they don’t want to eat for a few days, provided they are drinking enough fluids.
Keeping pain medication in your child after surgery is key to helping them feel more inclined to drinking fluids. If they refuse to take their pain medication and then refuse to drink because they are in pain, children often get dehydrated and will have to go to the hospital for IV fluids.
Your child may have a few episodes of vomiting or nausea, blood-tinged mucus, a low-grade fever, bad breath, ear pain, white patches in the throat, mild snoring or congestion, and pain five to six days after surgery when the scabs come off. These are all normal and you shouldn’t be alarmed. However, if they have bright red bleeding or are vomiting blood, have persistent nausea, breathing problems, severe pain, or anything else that alarms you, you should contact their doctor.
Surgery can be scary, but knowing what your child will be going through can make it easier not just for you, but for your child, too.