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Your child may be having surgery to remove the tonsils or adenoids. If needed, the tonsils and adenoids can be removed during the same surgery. The 2 procedures are described below.

Front view of child's open mouth with tonsils. Side view of child's face showing tonsils, adenoids, and inner ear.


Tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. The tonsils are 2 small masses of tissue that help the body fight disease. They are located in the back of the throat, behind and above the tongue. The tonsils are easily seen. Tonsillectomy may be performed if enlarged tonsils make it hard to breathe. It may also be performed if the tonsils are often infected.


Adenoidectomy is surgery to remove the adenoids. The word “adenoids” refers to a single mass of tissue that helps the body fight disease. This mass is located behind the nose and upper throat. It is near the passage to the middle ear (eustachian tube). It is hidden from view by the soft palate. Adenoidectomy may be needed if enlarged adenoid tissue obstructs breathing. It may also be done if infected adenoid tissue is causing ear infections.

Removal of the tonsils and adenoids is one of the most common surgical procedures. Although the tonsils and adenoids help to fight infections, their removal does not affect the body's ability to fight infection in a negative way.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: Kacker, Ashutosh, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2016
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