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The tonsillectomy procedure is one of the most common surgeries performed by ENT surgeons across the globe. The surgery is especially common amongst children suffering from the problem of recurring, chronic or severe tonsillitis, complications of enlarged tonsils or other related ailments. It is also a common belief that the post operative recovery amongst children is faster and relatively easier as compared to adult patients. However, like any other surgeries, this procedure also has certain risks associated with it.

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Discussed below are the most common complications after child tonsillectomy to help the parents take an informed decision not only about the procedure itself, but also about the proper care of the child during the recovery period.

Reactions to Anaesthesia

  • Given that the procedure is performed under general anaesthesia, some children might depict problems resulting from this sleep inducing drug. In most such cases, the children might experience problems such as headache, nausea, vomiting or even muscle soreness.
  • However, most of these are short-term problems and generally disappear on their own as the effect of anaesthesia gradually wears of completely within a day or two after the surgery. Serious, long term problems are extremely rare and even more so amongst children, although the administration of anaesthesia is also associated with the risk of death.
  • The best way to avoid these negative reactions to anaesthesia is by strictly following the pre-operative instructions provided by the doctor, especially with respect to the eating and drinking before the procedure.

Bleeding after the surgery

  • Another common complication that many children suffer from after undergoing tonsillectomy is that of haemorrhaging.  Although this complication is not too common, it is definitely regarded as one of most serious risks associated with the procedure.
  • This specific complication results from the fact that the tonsils are located quite close to major blood vessels. In most cases the haemorrhaging occurs mostly within the first 24 hours after the surgery or when the scabs come off, six to ten days after the procedure.
  • In case the bleeding is too heavy, the children might be required to return to the operating theatre or might even face the need of blood transfusion. The bleeding might generally be caused due to dehydration or excessive activity by the children after the operation which might cause the scabs to get dislodged.

Infection

  • Infection is the most common complication associated with almost every type of surgical procedure, including tonsillectomy. The infections are generally caused due to a careless attitude of the patients during the healing process. Even though the chances of this complication are quite rare, it is important to immediately report any signs of infection after tonsillectomy to the doctor.
  • These signs might include a high fever of more than 101 degree Fahrenheit, severe pain in the ear resulting from ear infection caused after tonsillectomy or infections of the upper respiratory system.
  • The children should be provided immediate medical assistance in case they face any difficulty in breathing or emit mucus that is abnormal in colour. In most cases, the doctors will prescribe an course of antibiotics for treatment of the infections and also suggest additional after care guideline to minimize the chances of recurrence of the infection.

Other Complications

  • In addition to the three main complications described above, children undergoing tonsillectomy might also suffer from other issues which are extremely rare.
  • These generally include damage to the teeth during intubation, burns caused during surgical cautery, allergic reaction to medication given during and after the surgery and upper airway obstruction due to the presence of excessive scar tissue.
  • As mentioned before, these complications are extremely rare and the parents of the child can consult the surgeon to learn more about them and their proper management. They can even gain information about the best ways to prevent them.
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