Tonsillectomy (Tonsil Removal Surgery)

What is a tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is a surgery to remove the palatine tonsils from the top of your throat. This procedure is done to treat inflammation of the tonsils, also known as tonsillitis.

Tonsil removal is usually done for children. However, tonsillectomy in adults may still be needed for reasons such as:

  • Frequent and persistent cases of sore throat
  • Sleep apnoea caused by swollen tonsils blocking the airway
  • Severe bad breath related to debris caught in the tonsils
  • Cancer in the tonsil area
  • Recurrent tonsil stones

What causes tonsillitis?


The tonsils form a part of our immune system and produce antibodies to fight pathogens (disease-causing germs) that enter the nose and mouth. Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become infected and enlarged.

There are 3 types of tonsillitis:

  • Acute tonsillitis, which refers to the occasional tonsil infection
  • Recurrent tonsillitis, which refers to recurring tonsil infections
  • Chronic tonsillitis, which refers to a persistent baseline sore throat with acute flare-ups of tonsil infection

If you have an infected or inflamed tonsil, you may notice that your throat is red, and your tonsils are covered in a whitish or yellow coating.

You may also have chronic sleep apnoea related to enlarged tonsils or snoring that disrupts your sleep.

Why do you need a tonsillectomy?

Your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy if you experience the following:

  • Frequent, recurring episodes of tonsillitis
  • Recurrent tonsil stones, which are often a sign of underlying chronic tonsil infection
  • Pain on one side of the throat
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Breathing problems resulting from swollen or enlarged tonsils
  • Bleeding on the tonsils
  • Severe complications of tonsillitis such as neck abscess or quinsy (peritonsillar abscess)

The benefits of having a tonsillectomy include:

  • Lowered risk of throat infections
  • Reduced need for medication such as antibiotics
  • Fewer medical visits
  • Improved quality of life

What are the risks and complications of a tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is a safe procedure with a low complication rate. However, like any other surgery, it carries some risks, such as:

  • Reactions to anaesthesia. You may experience some minor short-term reactions to the medication, such as headache, nausea, vomiting or muscle soreness. Serious, long-term problems are rare. For general anaesthesia, this includes the risk of death.
  • Swelling. You may experience swelling of the tongue and at the soft roof of your mouth (soft palate), particularly during the first few hours after the procedure. This can lead to breathing problems.
  • Bleeding during surgery. In rare cases, there may be severe bleeding during surgery which requires additional treatment and a longer hospital stay.
  • Bleeding during healing. You may experience some bleeding during the healing process, especially if the scab from the wound is dislodged too soon.
  • Infection. In rare instances, surgery can lead to an infection that requires further treatment.

Why choose Mount Elizabeth Hospitals?

At Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, you will have access to our accomplished team of ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons, trusted in Singapore and the region for their skills and experience.

Our medical specialists are adept in treating a wide range of clinical conditions. Patients will receive a customised treatment plan tailored to their unique needs.

Our well-equipped hospital facilities and dedicated nurses ensure that our patients undergoing tonsillectomy get the care and focus they deserve.

Our otolaryngologists

At Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, our ENT specialists leverage on their skills and expertise to help patients with tonsillitis return quickly to good health.

Please check with your insurance provider for more information, and for their most up-to-date list of panel doctors.

^Specialists may qualify to be on the Extended Panel (EP). You may enjoy selected panel benefits depending on your policy and riders.
This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

Need help?

For enquiries, please call
+65 6250 0000 (Orchard) or +65 6898 6898 (Novena)

For appointment bookings, please WhatsApp
+65 8111 7777 (Orchard) or +65 8111 5777 (Novena)