An adenoidectomy is surgery to remove your child’s adenoid glands. Your child may need this surgery if their adenoids have become swollen or enlarged because of an infection or allergies. An adenoidectomy can help if your child is experiencing breathing problems or frequent ear and sinus infections because of enlarged adenoids.
An adenoidectomy, or adenoid removal, is surgery to remove your child’s adenoid glands. Adenoids are small lumps of tissue located behind your nose in your upper airway. Adenoids are considered a vestigial organ in adults (a remnant with no purpose).
Adenoid glands are part of your child’s immune system. They fight germs you breathe in, like viruses and bacteria. Adenoids usually shrink and disappear by the time most children turn 13.
While adenoids help protect your child’s body from viruses and bacteria, they sometimes become swollen and enlarged. This swelling (inflammation) can be caused by infections, allergies or other reasons. Some children may also be born with abnormally large adenoids.
Swollen adenoids may need to be surgically removed if they’re partially blocking your child’s airway.
An adenoidectomy is mostly for children between 1 and 7 years old. Children’s adenoids naturally begin shrinking around age 7 and are almost completely gone by the teens.
An adenoidectomy treats enlarged adenoids that can cause problems by partially blocking your child’s airway. A narrowed airway can cause a range of issues that require treatment, including:
After taking a health history, a healthcare provider will examine your child’s adenoids, either with an X-ray or with a small camera placed in your child’s nose.
Based on your child’s symptoms and the appearance of their adenoids, your provider may recommend removing their adenoids.
Adenoid removal is extremely common. It’s one of the most common surgeries children receive.
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Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on which medicines your child should or shouldn’t take in the days and weeks leading up to their surgery. For instance, your provider may advise you to avoid aspirin, ibuprofen and other medication that can thin your child’s blood.
Follow your provider’s guidance on fasting (temporarily not eating and drinking). Your child’s stomach should be empty for surgery.
You should also monitor your child for symptoms of a cold, flu or other respiratory infection. Your provider may recommend postponing surgery if your child gets sick beforehand.
An adenoidectomy is a straightforward, relatively short procedure performed by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon. Most children go home the same day of their surgery.
The surgeon may also remove your child’s tonsils (tonsillectomy) at the same time if they’re also swollen and causing symptoms. These surgeries are commonly performed together.
An adenoidectomy is a quick procedure. The surgery only takes about 30 minutes.
Members of your child’s care team will take them to the recovery room, where your child will wake from the anesthesia. Once your child wakes, a provider will make sure they can breathe, cough and swallow.
You’ll likely be able to go home that same day. If your provider wishes to monitor your child, they may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
An adenoidectomy is a safe surgery that can relieve your child’s symptoms. Although adenoids are part of your child’s immune system, adenoid removal won’t make their immune system weaker. Immune systems are highly adaptable. Your child doesn’t need adenoids to fight germs. They’ll actually be healthier without having enlarged adenoids.
An adenoidectomy is a safe procedure. Still, as with any surgery, there are potential (but rare) risks.
It’s also possible for your child’s adenoids to grow back. It’s impossible to remove all traces of the tissue since the adenoids are so far back in your child’s nasal passage. If the tissue continues to cause problems, your child may need surgery twice. This is extremely rare.
After an adenoidectomy, a child almost always has a full recovery. Children go on to live healthier lives with far fewer breathing and ear problems. Children without adenoids have immune systems that are just as strong as children with adenoids.
Your child should recover within a week or two following surgery. In the meantime, they may experience symptoms, such as:
Your child may need pain medicine for a few days during recovery. Your provider can prescribe pain medications in liquid form that will be easier for your child to swallow.
Follow your healthcare provider’s guidance on how much rest your child needs and what activities they should avoid. To protect your child while they’re healing, avoid places where they can be exposed to germs that may make them sick. It’s also a good idea to avoid smoky environments that may irritate their nasal passages.
Your child may have trouble tolerating certain foods during their recovery period. As a rule, steer clear of foods that are spicy, crunchy or acidic (like citrus) that may irritate their throat and nasal passages. Instead, encourage them to eat and drink:
Follow your provider’s guidance on when it’s safe to return to school. Many children need at least a week out of school to rest as part of their recovery.
Monitor your child closely after you take them home from surgery. Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An adenoidectomy is a common procedure that can give your child relief from ear infections, sinus infections, breathing and sleeping problems. If your child needs this procedure, ask your healthcare provider how you can prepare them for it. Ask your provider about the recovery timeline so you and your child know what to expect. Have your provider “perform” the surgery on a teddy bear or special toy so your child can see there’s nothing to fear. Having all your questions answered beforehand can provide you and your child more comfort and confidence as you plan for surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/23/2023.
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