Laser tonsillectomy refers to the use of laser instruments to remove tissue from one or both tonsils. The laser quickly vaporizes tissue, smoothes the surface of the tonsils and reduces their size. While this surgery has become more common in the past ten years, laser usage for ear, nose and throat procedures has actually been around for several decades.
Ways to Go
A qualified ENT surgeon can choose from at least a dozen methods and utilize a variety of techniques for the best patient outcome. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. The benefits of laser surgery over traditional tonsil surgery can include less pain, less bleeding and less risky anesthesia (local vs. general). If your tonsils are easily visible when you open wide and look in, and your primary issue is one of tonsil stones and collections of material causing problems, this option may be your best choice.
Most tonsil surgeries are quick and uneventful, but your individual anatomy and general health should be evaluated by a skilled physician. This will help you determine which type of surgery is likely to give you the desired results with the shortest recovery time. If you have suffered repeated infections and illnesses, improving your health for years to come can be a much bigger consideration than recovery from surgery. Complete healing may take a few weeks regardless of method chosen.
Cost is also a factor. A health insurance plan may offer different amounts of coverage and approve some procedures, but not others, at least in terms of what they will pay for and how much. However, being able to return to work, school or home more quickly may make it worthwhile for a patient to pay a bit more out of pocket for the surgery if necessary.
There are some very resilient people who resume normal activities within days, but almost all will experience some pain, and perhaps difficulties with nausea, eating, sleeping or speaking for at least a period of time following surgery. Medications can often significantly decrease symptoms, but may come with unwanted side effects for a few days and be required to avoid pain, swelling, infection or other complications.
One big plus with laser surgery is the avoidance of general anesthesia, which presents additional risks over local anesthetic, and might necessitate an overnight hospital stay. A shorter, less painful recovery also means that less pain medication is needed during the healing process so the patient feels “normal” more quickly.
The Who and Why
Laser surgery can reduce the risks of scarring and infection and remove tonsil tissue without cutting into adjoining tissue. It can be ideal for patients with halitosis or snoring problems related to the tonsils who don’t need or want to have otherwise healthy tonsils completely removed. There is a chance that the partially removed tonsils may grow back somewhat, but the benefits of a smoother surface and absence of deep pockets will remain in effect.
Adults can have a much tougher time than children in terms of recovery, so laser surgery can especially benefit them. Even though your regular physician is not a surgeon, he or she can give you excellent advice on deciding whether you should have surgery and which type of surgery might be best for you personally. We have provided links to lots of additional information. It’s a great idea to read as much as you can and use it to help you make a list of your questions for the doctor.
On the right side of the page are links to surgeons who offer laser tonsillectomy and they will gladly provide additional information on the procedures they perform. Be informed. Office visits go by quickly and you may be nervous, so having your questions written down in advance will help you relax and get the most from a consultation.