A tonsillectomy is a surgery to remove the tonsils. The tonsils are located behind the tongue, in the upper part. They form a protective ring, and are part of the immune system. They capture germs that enter the body through the throat and help fight infections. Doctors recommend a tonsillectomy if the tonsils swell or become infected very often and the medications do not help. Removing the tonsils does not mean that you will develop other infections – the body can fight the infections in other ways.
The tonsils change with age and are usually larger in children, then become smaller in adolescents and older adults. Children are more sensitive to complications, such as breathing problems, when the tonsils swell too much. Surgery may also be needed if enlarged tonsils block the airways, leading to sleep apnea, swallowing problems, or impaired feeding.
How Much Does Tonsil Removal Cost?
According to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, if don’t have health insurance you will have to pay anywhere between $4,200 and $6,400 for tonsil removal, with or without adenoidectomy and the average cost would be around $5,500. For instance, the average cost for tonsillectomy in Minnesota state is $5,000, according to a survey compiled by the Minnesota Council of Health Plans.
However, if deemed medically necessary, the majority of the tonsil removal surgeries are covered by health insurance policies. For instance, Blue Cross Shield of Kansas says that only if it is covered in a specific exclusion or using an experimental technique it would not be covered; otherwise, any needed surgery will be covered.
Tonsil removal details
Before the surgery, blood tests and a physical examination will be performed and the medical history will be analyzed. Inform your doctor about any medications the child is taking, including over-the-counter medications or supplements. About 10 days before surgery, you should avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other medicines that increase the risk of bleeding. A few hours before the operation, the child will not have to eat or drink anything.
The tonsil removal surgery is performed under general anesthesia and lasts about 30 minutes. An electric cauterization device is usually used to cut the tonsils and seal the blood vessels that supply them. There is also the option of using a scalpel or using ultrasonic vibrations to cut the tonsils.
The purpose of the surgery is to remove the tissue so that it cannot continue to cause problems. The tonsils are removed leaving a small raw area that heals in 1-2 weeks. The area remains sensitive and mild to severe pain is normal for 10-14 days.
The surgery is done at the level of the mouth – there are no cuts in the skin and no visible scars.
After the surgery, encourage the child to drink fluids. Dehydration is the most common complication of this surgery. It occurs if the patient (for various reasons) refuses or cannot drink water. For the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery, it is a good idea to give the child medication to reduce the pain on a regular basis, as prescribed, before the pain becomes very intense. This will help the child to consume appropriate fluids and foods after the operation.
What are the extra costs?
After a tonsillectomy, patients will be prescribed antibiotics and pain medications. The cost of treatment will depend on the insurance they have but it’s not uncommon to copay.
Important things to consider
The first thing you should do when looking for a doctor is to get referrals from trusted sources like your pediatrician or family physician. You can use the American Board of Otolaryngology’s website page to verify if they are board-certified and qualified in their field before making an appointment with them.
Tonsils are part of the immune system, and it’s important to consider this when performing surgery. The American Academy of Otolaryngology has an overview on their website which explains what you can expect prior to and after getting surgery, as well as other considerations that should be made before deciding whether this would work for your child.
Tonsil removal is recommended if a child has at least 7 infections per year, more than 5 infections per year for 2 years in a row, or 3 infections per year for 3 years, according to the National Institute of Health.
Food and fluids are very important after surgery, as they will help cleanse and heal the throat. It is recommended to eat softer foods in the first phase, such as pudding, soup, or mashed potatoes until the child is ready for solid foods. Slightly cold foods and beverages can reduce discomfort.
After tonsillectomy, children may still catch a cold, sore throat, and throat infections. However, they will not develop tonsillitis unless the tonsils grow again, which is unusual.
Any surgery involves risk. About 5% of children bleed at the site of surgery after 5-8 days. In this case, it may be necessary to receive blood or a new surgery. In some children, a change in voice may occur due to the intervention.
How can I save money?
Watchful waiting may be an even more cost-effective solution for children with tonsillitis. A Dutch study reported on MedPageToday found that this approach can be, in some cases, cheaper than treating the infection right away.