A tonsillectomy is a 3,000-year-old surgical procedure in which the tonsils are removed from either side of the throat.

The procedure is performed in response to cases of repeated occurrence of acute tonsillitis or adenoiditis, obstructive sleep apnea, nasal airway obstruction, snoring, or peritonsillar abscess.

For children, the adenoids are removed at the same time, a procedure called adenoidectomy.


Tonsillectomy may be indicated when the patient:

  • Experiences recurrent infections of acute tonsillitis. The number requiring tonsillectomy varies with the severity of the episodes. 
  • Has chronic tonsillitis, consisting of persistent, moderate-to-severe throat pain.
  • Has multiple bouts of peritonsillar abscess.
  • Has sleep apnea (stopping or obstructing breathing at night due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids)
  • Has difficulty eating or swallowing due to enlarged tonsils (very unusual reason for tonsillectomy)
  • Produces tonsilloliths (tonsil stones) in the back of their mouth.
  • Has abnormally large tonsils with crypts (Craters or impacts in the tonsils)
Learn more about Tonsillitis.

Additional information