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Key messages

Tonsillectomy is one of the most common childhood surgeries and is usually performed to treat snoring, obstructive sleep apnoea or frequent tonsillitis.

Rates of surgery vary greatly depending on geographic location in the state.

We’ve developed tools to help GPs, health services and families make the best decision about their child having a tonsillectomy.

On this page

    Please note that this guidance is currently undergoing review by Safer Care Victoria to ensure  the content is up to date. In the meantime, we recommend that you also refer to more contemporaneous evidence where possible.

    Discussing options with parents

    Our fact sheet is designed to help general practitioners and families discuss the risks and benefits of tonsillectomy surgery.

    You can use this when you are talking to parents of children with sleep apnoea, snoring or frequent tonsillitis to help them make informed decisions about their treatment options.    

    Does my child need their tonsils removed?

    The tonsils are glands in the throat that are part of the body’s defence against infection. They are often larger in young children who have frequent colds. 

    A tonsillectomy is an operation that removes these glands and is mainly for children who have frequent severe tonsillitis or severe snoring and sleep apnoea.

    Making a decision how to best manage an individual child’s snoring, sleep apnoea or frequent tonsillitis can be challenging.

    In this video, parents describe their child’s symptoms and how they decided on the best treatment option for their child.

    Does my child need their tonsils removed or can I wait?

    In many children, snoring and frequent tonsillitis improve with age and growth. Deciding to wait and see whether the problems improve or to go ahead with surgery can be difficult.

    If symptoms are mild, a wait and see approach is usually recommended. The more severe a child’s health problems are, the more likely it is that surgery to remove the tonsils will improve their health and quality of life.

    In this video, parents reflect on the severity of their child’s symptoms, their impact on everyday activities and how they decided whether to watch and wait or have their child’s tonsils removed.

    What to expect on the day of surgery

    Taking your child to have their tonsils out can be stressful if you and your child don’t know what to expect.

    In this video, parents describe how they helped their child to understand what was going to happen and their experiences on the day of surgery.

    Resources for health services

    Please adapt our fact sheet for families, which details what they can do before their child has tonsil surgery.

    Recovery after tonsil surgery

    To help your child recover from tonsil surgery, your child needs regular medication to reduce their pain and to rest at home for two weeks after surgery. 

    Some children may need to seek medical care after going home, due to concerns about pain, bleeding or dehydration.

    In this video, parents share their thoughts on their child’s recovery:

    • how they managed their child’s pain, encouraging eating, drinking and resting
    • what complications they looked for and what they did if they had any concerns.

    Resources for health services

    View our resources to help families look after their children at home, and to minimise the need for children to return to hospital after tonsil surgery.

    View our resources to support health services considering starting a targeted improvement project to minimise the need for children to return to hospital after tonsil surgery.

    Get in touch

    Clinical Guidance Team
    Safer Care Victoria

    Version History

    Published: April 2019 

    Due for review: April 2022

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