What Parents Should Know About Adenoid Removal

Families occasionally struggle to decide whether to have their child’s adenoids removed. A Michigan Medicine pediatric otolaryngologist explains the procedure.

7:00 AM

Author | Kevin Joy

The removal of a child's adenoid might prompt more questions from parents than the more familiar tonsillectomy.

MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter

That's because the adenoid, a mass of lymphatic tissue in the back of the nose behind the soft palate, is out of sight and conversation, too.

"Adenoids are a bit more of a mystery to parents because they're not something as commonly discussed," says Lauren Bohm, M.D., a pediatric otolaryngologist at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

Adenoids, which shrink by adolescence in most individuals, are designed to trap germs that enter through the nose. A person's tonsils maintain a similar function, catching microscopic substances that come in via the mouth.

Surgery doesn't compromise that line of defense: "Studies have shown that removal of the adenoid doesn't adversely affect a body's ability to fight off infection in the long run," Bohm says. "There's enough redundancy in the immune system."

Still, the decision to remove a child's adenoid should involve careful examination and a discussion between his or her family and their otolaryngologist.

Bohm spoke more about the basics of the surgery:

5 things to know about adenoidectomy

Why it's done

Adenoidectomy may be advised when a child has persistent nasal obstruction, chronic ear or sinus infections, snoring or sleep disturbance. Says Bohm: "If there's frequent nasal congestion and drainage, especially without other symptoms of illness, we'll usually recommend an evaluation" with an X-ray or a small camera in the nasal cavity.

Who might get it

Most enlarged adenoid cases present in early childhood, says Bohm. And a child needn't be a candidate for tonsillectomy often spurred by frequent tonsillitis or sleep apnea (pauses in breathing at night) to warrant adenoid removal.

SEE ALSO: Your Pediatrician vs. Urgent Care: What to Do When Your Child Is Sick

How the surgery is done

Performed as an outpatient procedure, adenoid removal takes place under general anesthetic with a breathing tube. Removal involves shaving or cauterizing the adenoid down to the base ("like cutting back a bush or shrub," Bohm notes). It's a short surgery, about 30 minutes in most cases, she says. No sutures are needed after adenoid removal.

Potential risks and complications

Anyone receiving an adenoidectomy should be "relatively healthy" at the time of the operation to ensure a quick recovery, Bohm says. But special considerations must be made for children with bleeding disorders and Down syndrome. Children with a history of a cleft palate or a neuromuscular disorder may be predisposed to speech abnormalities after the procedure.

What to expect in recovery

Compared with tonsillectomy, the healing process is often easier for adenoidectomy patients. "There's typically less pain, less risk of bleeding and a quicker return to normal activities," Bohm says. "Children may complain of some ear or throat pain, which is typically managed with Tylenol or Motrin." Still, she notes, it may take several days for symptoms to improve.


More Articles About: Children's Health Nasal Surgery CS Mott Children's Hospital Tonsils Ear, Nose & Throat
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]

734-764-2220

Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Subscribe
Featured News & Stories Illustration of girl with blue water line, depicting a figure drowning, as girl contemplates pill in hand
Health Lab
Antidepressant dispensing to adolescents and young adults surges during pandemic
Rate of antidepressant dispensing to young people rose faster after March 2020, especially among females
Breaking Down Mental Health on blue background and text inside a yellow head graphic
Breaking Down Mental Health
Depression and Sleep
In this episode, learn to understand the interplay between depression and how cognitive behavioral therapy can improve sleep.
Mom and daughter pose in two separate photos about 30 years apart. Daughter had a congenital heart issue, now is an adult.
Health Lab
Mother daughter duo reflect on nearly three decade heart journey
Mother, daughter reflect on congenital heart treatment and decades long treatment
A child and her mom play with a toy and in another image, child sits on her bed smiling
Health Lab
Doctors use novel treatment for teen with heart failure
U-M team successfully treats a teen with heart failure using a medication for adults, opening up a potential new therapeutic option for young patients.
Health Lab
Teen turns EKG heart readings into art
Teenage heart patient transforms EKG paper into art creations, sold as notecards to support research at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
gambling app finger pressing spin
Health Lab
Experts say increased access to online gambling may put teens at risk
As young people increasingly have access and exposure to online gambling, only one in four parents say they have talked to their teen about some aspect of virtual betting, a national poll suggests.