Adenoids and adenoidectomy 


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An adenoidectomy is a quick operation to remove the adenoids. Adenoids are small lumps of tissue located at the back of the throat, above the tonsils.

What are adenoids?

Adenoids are part of the immune system, which helps fight infection and protects the body from bacteria and viruses.

Adenoids are only present in children. They start to grow from birth and reach their maximum size when your child is approximately three to five years old.

By the time your child is seven years old, the adenoids start to shrink. By the late teens, they are barely visible. By adulthood, the adenoids will have disappeared completely.

The adenoids disappear because they are not an essential part of the body's immune system. Although they may be helpful in young children, the body has much more effective ways of coping with infections.

You will not be able to see your child's adenoids by looking in their mouth. If your GP needs to see them, they examine the adenoids using a light and a small mirror.

When do adenoids need removing?

It may be necessary to remove the adenoids if they become swollen or enlarged due to:

  • infection with bacteria or a virus – although the infection will eventually clear up, the adenoids may remain enlarged
  • allergies – allergens (substances that trigger an allergic reaction) can sometimes irritate the adenoids, making them swell up
  • congenital – your child may have developed enlarged adenoids in the womb, so may have had them from birth

Read more about why adenoids need to be removed

What is an adenoidectomy?

An adenoidectomy is a quick operation to remove the adenoids. It takes about 30 minutes to perform and is carried out in hospital by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon. In most cases your child can go home on the same day once the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off.

Read more about how an adenoidectomy is performed and recovering from an adenoidectomy.

Are there any risks?

The operation carries very few risks. Removing the adenoids will not put your child at greater risk of developing infection. The body's immune system is perfectly able to cope with bacteria and viruses without the adenoids.

However, as with all surgery, there is a small risk of complications such as infection, bleeding or an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic.

There may also be some temporary minor health problems such as a sore throat, earache or a blocked nose for a few weeks.

Read more information about the risks of an adenoidectomy.

Page last reviewed: 18/05/2012

Next review due: 18/05/2014


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