Common Changes After Tonsillectomy

What Changes Are OK and What Are Not After A Tonsillectomy?

Surgical procedure
Surgical procedure. Chris Ryan/Getty Images

It is normal for your mouth and throat to look differently after having a tonsillectomy but if you are unprepared for these changes they can be concerning. This article covers the most common changes and when (or if), you should get medical help.

Swollen Tongue

A swollen tongue is fairly common in the first few days following a tonsillectomy. There are a couple of reasons that this can occur. First of all, the tongue may sustain a fair amount of trauma during the surgery from being bumped by various surgical tools.

  Furthermore, the tongue is often clamped down to keep it out of the way and allow the surgeon to work, while this has a protective function, the clamps themselves may cause swelling. The tongue may also feel a bit sore where it was clamped down for a day or two after the surgery. Various tubes or suction catheters are often inserted into the mouth for different reasons such as suctioning blood and other secretions or to help you breathe while you are under anesthesia, all of these tools may bump the tongue. While care is taken to protect the tongue as much as possible there is a limited amount of space in the throat that health care professionals have to work and sometimes your tongue may be caught up in the mix.

The tongue is also close to the surgical site itself and so swelling can spread from the tonsil beds to other parts of the mouth and throat after having a tonsillectomy. How much swelling you may experience varies a lot, but you can expect some swelling.

You don't need to call a doctor unless the swelling becomes severe enough that you have difficulty talking, the swelling interferes with swallowing or breathing, or if the swelling does not improve and eventually go away on its own.

Drinking cold fluids, eating ice chips, or using an ice pack on your throat can all help to reduce tongue swelling.

Swollen Uvula

The uvula is a little bell shaped organ that hangs from the roof of your mouth. Swelling to the uvula can occur after a tonsillectomy for the same reason the tongue can become swollen. Eating cold foods and drinking cold liquids also helps to reduce uvula swelling. You should call your doctor or get medical help if you have a swollen uvula that causes drooling, gagging, or difficulty talking or breathing.

White Scabs in the Back of the Throat

After a tonsillectomy, it is normal for the tonsil beds to look like they are covered with a white film. This is not a concern and usually goes away in 5-10 days. You should call a doctor, however, if you notice any bright red streaks of blood coming from the tonsil beds or if the tonsil beds have a green tint since this could indicate an infection.

White Tongue

Many people experience a white film which coats the tongue after a tonsillectomy which may be accompanied by bad breath. Again this is normal and will resolve on its own.

Your doctor will want to see you a couple of weeks after you have your tonsils removed.

She will examine the back of your throat to see if you are healing properly and look for any abnormal changes in your throat or mouth. Make sure you keep this appointment, follow any instructions your doctor gives you on post-surgery care, and contact your doctor with any worrisome symptoms.

Risk After Tonsillectomy

There are several risks associated with a tonsillectomy. However, the most significant risk that can be life threatening is bleeding from your surgical site. If you experience bleeding in the hospital or at home you should always seek immediate help. This may also be noticed if you are having to swallow frequently from a trickle of blood in the back of your throat. While tonsillectomies are common procedures, it is not without risk and you should not delay care if you think you are bleeding. Other

Sources:

ENT Clinic. Tonsil Removal - Tonsil and Adenoid Surgery. Accessed: May 31, 2014 from http://www.ent-surgery.com.au/throat-surgery/tonsil-and-adenoid-surgery/

LSU Health. Risks of Tonsillectomy - Adenoidectomy Accessed: May 31, 2014 from http://myhsc.lsuhscshreveport.edu/OtolaryngologyHeadandNeckSurgery/RisksofTonsillectomy-Adenoidectomy.aspx

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