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JAMA Otolaryngology Patient Page
January 3, 2019

Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy in Children

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;145(3):300. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.3703

The tonsils are located in the back of the throat, and the adenoids in the back of the nose. They are made up of tissue similar to what makes up a lymph node. Their purpose is to help “trap” and fight infection. Because we have so many other lymph nodes in the head and neck, if this tissue is removed, we can still fight infection.

This surgery is generally performed in childhood to help reduce snoring and improve sleep or because of recurrent Streptococcus (“strep”) throat infections. When the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged in a child, the airway is narrowed, which makes it more difficult for air to pass into the lungs while the child is sleeping. When this happens, the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be made. For some patients, an overnight sleep study is recommended to make the diagnosis of OSA. A sleep study consists of close monitoring of breathing, oxygen level, and heart, muscle, and brain activity while sleeping. For many children, OSA will improve after a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. If your child has recurrent strep throat infections (7 infections in 1 year, 5 per year for 2 years, or 3 per year for 3 years), they may also benefit from having this surgery.

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