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Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT)

Services & Treatments

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Treatment of Tonsils and Adenoids

When these tissues at the back of the throat are enlarged or inflamed, removing them brings instant relief and an end to infections.

As visible pads of tissue in the back of the throat, the tonsils are more commonly known. But the adenoids are the same size and shape and made up of similar tissue. They’re just out of sight higher up in the throat, behind the nose. 

They are both part of the lymphatic system which helps keep bodily fluids in balance and clear away infection. Since tonsils and adenoids hold infection, they are prone to becoming infected themselves.

When to Seek Treatment for Tonsils and Adenoids

Tonsils and adenoids can be problematic in children. Adults don’t even have adenoids and the immune system function of the tonsils decreases in puberty, making infections rare. Adenoids are rarely an issue on their own, and instead are often a signal of nose or sinus problems, allergies or infection.

When infected, the tonsils and adenoids can become swollen or enlarged, making it difficult to breathe or painful to swallow. Since they are so close and so similar, it’s safe to assume that if there’s a problem with your child’s tonsils, their adenoids are affected too.

If your child has recurring bouts of tonsillitis, strep throat, ear infections or sinus infections, they may need more aggressive treatment than just the antibiotics or other medications that combat these illnesses. While every child is different, if they’ve had four to six such infections in a year, it’s time to consult an ENT to evaluate the problem. An Ear, Nose and Throat doctor can assess the tonsils and use a scope or X-ray to see the hard-to-reach adenoids to decide if your kid needs their tonsils and adenoids removed.

Tonsil and Adenoid Removal

Since both tonsils and adenoids fall to infection, they are often removed at the same time to prevent recurrent infections your child is experiencing. Removal may also be necessary if your child has breathing difficulties or sleep apnea due to enlarged — but not infected — tonsils and adenoids.

Both procedures are performed by your ENT at the Lakeview Surgery Center, next to The Iowa Clinic’s West Des Moines campus.


Tonsillectomy is most common between the ages of five and 15, when tonsil infections occur most often in kids. A tonsillectomy is rarely performed in children under the age of three, older teens and adults. The older you get, the higher the risk of tonsil surgery.

Tonsillectomy is an outpatient procedure with general anesthesia and a breathing tube. It is a quick surgery — about 15 minutes — so your child will wake up and can go home shortly after. Since the removal of tonsils leaves two sores at the back of the throat, it can take one to two weeks for your child to fully recover. Until then, they may have throat soreness and difficulty swallowing some foods.


Adenoidectomy is similar to a tonsillectomy, but with more effort to get through the back of the mouth, up the throat and behind the nose to reach the adenoids. It’s uncommon for children under the age of two and in the mid-teens, when they are likely to have grown out of their adenoids.

While most often performed at the same time as a tonsillectomy, an adenoidectomy can be a standalone procedure to treat chronic stuffy nose, ear infections, allergies or sinus infections. When ear infections are an issue, ear tubes are placed at the same time, helping to fully drain the infections. 

Recovering from an adenoidectomy is easier. The raw spots are too high in the throat to get irritated by swallowing, so there’s nothing to slow your kid down after surgery.

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