In cases of recurrent strep throat, the patient and doctor may consider strep throat surgery to remove the tonsils. A tonsillectomy is an option when you have more than 7 episodes of tonsillitis or strep throat in 12 months, and the antibiotic treatment no longer works. Moreover, strep throat surgery is a good idea if you have abscesses around the tonsils that are non-responsive to drainage, or if you have tonsillitis that does not respond to treatment and causes a persistent bad taste or odor in the mouth. The doctor must perform a biopsy prior to the surgery to see if there is a tumor on the tonsils. Large tonsils require a tonsillectomy only if they are causing sleep apnea, problems with eating or they are blocking the airways.
A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the tonsils and sometimes the adenoids, depending on each case. The patient is sedated with a general anesthetic so they are unconscious and feel no pain during the surgery. However, some doctors use a local anesthesia in healthy, cooperative adult or teenage patients. Strep throat surgery is not always necessary. An abscess around the tonsils can be managed with a simple procedure that involves making a small incision to drain the abscess.
When to consider surgery
According to recent studies, strep throat surgery is no longer considered a routine procedure for patients who have recurrent episodes. Although it has been shown to reduce the number of strep cases for 2 years, children who did not have a tonsillectomy also had fewer throat infections. Adults who have a tonsillectomy don’t get strep throat that often. Some doctors also believe that removing the tonsils will weaken the body’s immune system, but there is no research to confirm this. It is important to consider hot much time the patient is missing from school or work and how much inconvenience and stress the illness is causing before deciding to have a tonsillectomy. You must also weigh the risks of leaving the tonsils in against the risks of the surgery. Strep throat surgery may be a better choice if the strep infections are persistent and cause other complications.
Although tonsillectomy is a routine surgery and most people leave the hospital after a few hours, sometimes complications occur. The patient can experience pain after the surgery that lasts between one and two weeks and minor bleeding. However, there are some less common risks, including serious bleeding and anesthetic complications. Death after surgery is very rare, approximately 2% to 4% due to post-operative bleeding and 1 in 15,000 because of anesthesia complications or airway obstruction.
After the surgery
After the strep throat surgery, the patient will feel pain in the throat for a few days that can affect the ability to eat and drink, as well as the sound of the voice. Some people have a bad breath for several days. Children may feel unwell for a week after the surgery. However, if the child feels fine, there is no need to restrict the activity and keep him or her at home after the first couple of days.