What is an adenoidectomy?

An adenoidectomy, or adenoid removal, is surgery to remove the adenoid glands. The glands are located above the roof of your mouth, behind the nose. They look like small lumps of tissue.

Sometimes, when the adenoids become enlarged and inhibit a child’s breathing or lead to ear infections, they need to be removed in an adenoidectomy.

An adenoidectomy is mostly done in children between ages 1 and 7. By the time a child is 7, the adenoids begin to shrink and are considered a vestigial organ in adults (a remnant with no purpose).

What are adenoids?

Adenoids may look like small lumps of tissue, but these glands serve an important purpose in young children. They are part of the immune system and help protect the body from viruses and bacteria. However, removing them has not been shown to affect a child’s ability to fight infections.

Adenoids begin to shrink around age 5 to 7 in children, and will be almost completely gone by the teenage years. Adenoids are not visible in most adults.

What are the reasons for an adenoidectomy?

Sometimes, a child’s adenoids may become swollen or enlarged due to an infection or allergies. Some children may also be born with abnormally large adenoids.

When a child’s adenoids become enlarged, they can cause problems by partially blocking his or her airway. This can result in difficulty breathing through the nose that can lead to snoring or more serious conditions such sleep apnea (stopping breathing) at night. Chronic (long-term) nasal drainage can also be seen.

Enlarged adenoids can also contribute to chronic ear infections and lead to fluid in the ear that can cause temporary hearing loss.

Adenoid problems can also contribute to chronic tonsillitis (swelling of the tonsils, which are soft tissues located near the back of the mouth).

How does a doctor determine if a child needs an adenoidectomy?

If you suspect your child may have enlarged adenoids because of problems with their breathing or ears, you should consult your doctor. After taking a health history, he or she will examine your child’s adenoids using a small light and reflecting device.

Based on your child’s symptoms, if his or her adenoids appear enlarged, your doctor may recommend their removal.

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