Tonsils and adenoids are the body’s first line of defense as part of the immune system. They “sample” bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose and, as a result, sometimes become infected.
Tonsils and adenoids are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin and armpits. Tonsils are the two round lumps in the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth or nose without special instruments.
The two most common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids are recurrent infections and significant enlargement that causes nasal obstruction and/or breathing, swallowing and sleep problems. Abscesses around the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis and infections of small pickets within the tonsils that produce foul smelling white deposits can also affect the tonsils and adenoids, making them sore and swollen. Cancers of the tonsil, while uncommon, require early diagnosis and aggressive treatment.
Throat cultures, X-rays, blood tests and/or sleep studies are used to evaluate the cause of enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Bacterial infections of the tonsils are first treated with antibiotics. Removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy) may be recommended if there are recurrent infections despite antibiotic therapy and/or breathing difficulty due to enlargement of the tonsils and/or adenoids. Such obstruction to breathing causes snoring and disturbed sleep that leads to daytime sleepiness and may even cause behavioral or school performance problems in some children.
In adults, the possibility of cancer or a tumor may be another reason for removing the tonsils and adenoids. In some patients, especially those with infectious mononucleosis, severe enlargement may obstruct the airway. For those patients, treatment with steroids is sometimes helpful.
Coblation™ is the practice’s preferred method for removing tonsils and adenoids. The tissue is vaporized, reducing post operative pain and minimizing bleeding.