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What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is a condition whereby bacteria or viruses get into the tonsils causing inflammation and swelling. Tonsils are ball-like tissues situated at the back of the throat on each side (right and left) of the throat. Their function is to catch germs before they can cause infections in the throat, mouth and the sinuses. Tonsils are part of the body's infection-fighting system to keep us from getting sick.


The main symptom of tonsillitis is an extremely sore throat that usually makes it hard to eat, drink or even swallow and there may be a surface coating of white spots on the throat. Here are some other signs that bacteria or viruses have infected the tonsils:

  • A funny-sounding voice
  • Bad breath
  • Extremely red tonsils
  • A yellow or white coating on the tonsils
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Fever

The only way to heal infected tonsils is to remove them surgically through a procedure called Tonsillectomy. It is a common surgical procedure in which the tonsils are removed because of chronic tonsillar infections or enlarged tonsils that causes upper airway obstruction and sleep disorders. This procedure usually takes about 15-20 minutes and it only requires a local anesthesia for the pain. The patient leaves the same day of the procedure and may resume their normal activity the following day.

There are other numerous approaches practiced for the removal of   tonsils, they include:
  1. The use of cold knife dissection (ultrasonic scalpel)
  2. Electrocautery
  3. Microdebrider
  4. Bipolar radiofrequency ablation
  5. Laser Tonsil Ablation (LTA)
  6. Carbon dioxide laser

Surgery performed with an ultrasonic scalpel ("cold knife dissection"), it is the most common method used to remove tonsils and requires a general anesthesia and has minimal post-operative bleeding. A cold knife dissection completely removes the tonsils with a scalpel.

Tonsils are also removed by an electrocautery which is an instrument with a very hot tip, releasing electric currents that produce heat to destroy swollen tissues. This procedure cauterizes the blood vessels and controls the bleeding, however there is an increased risk for tissue damage by the heat, this may result in more discomfort during the post-operative period.

A microdebrider is a powered surgical tool that helps the surgeon to precisely remove the part of the tonsil tissue blocking the airway with minimal damage to the surrounding mucosal tissues. A microdebrider is a rotary shaving device with continuous suction devise made up of a cannula or tube connected to a hand piece. The microdebrider decreases post-operative pain and shortens the convalescent (recovery) period.

A Laser Tonsil Ablation, which uses a hand-held Carbon dioxide laser to vaporize tonsil tissue. This method is much quicker and results in little pain and discomfort and chances of post-surgery bleeding is very low. In this procedure, light energy is converted to heat, which then delivers large amounts of energy to the tissues. It reduces tonsil volume and eliminates recesses in the tonsils that collect chronic and recurrent infections. This procedure is recommended for chronic sore throats, chronic recurrent tonsillitis, severe halitosis or airway obstruction caused by enlarged tonsils.

Monopolar radiofrequency ablation (Somnoplasty) reduction procedures, this procedure include tonsillar ablation and coblation.

  • Tonsil ablation involves injecting an electrolyte solution into the target tonsil tissue that will deliver direct radiofrequency energy which will result in tissue shortening or reduction of the swollen tissues.
  • Tonsil coblation or Bipolar radiofrequency Ablation (coblation) involves medial to lateral surface application of similar energy. The coblation procedure has proved to be superior to ablation because tonsil ablation causes a much higher rate of airway swelling.

The ablation procedure is limited to the treatment of airway obstruction only, whereas the tonsil coblation procedure has many advantages that include less pain, reduced post-operative medicine usage, faster healing and early resumption of normal diet.

In most cases tonsillitis reoccurs and may require the doctor to perform another surgical procedure which may cause serious complications. But if the tonsils are removed successfully, a patient becomes less prone to future infections.











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