Your doctor may suggest tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy to treat sleep apnea if you have enlarged tonsils and adenoids that are blocking your airway during sleep. This is often the first treatment option for children, because enlarged tonsils and adenoids are usually the cause of their sleep apnea.
How Well It Works
Children who have a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy to treat sleep apnea usually have a noticeable improvement in their symptoms within 6 months of the surgery. Parents have reported decreases in:
Snoring, coughing, and colds.
Overactivity (hyperactivity) and other behavioral problems.
In children, these procedures appear to be successful in treating obstructive sleep apnea 75% to 100% of the time, even if the child is obese.footnote 1
After a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, your throat will be sore. This can make eating and swallowing difficult for a few days. Other possible complications after surgery include:
Excessive bleeding. (Some bleeding is expected.)
What To Think About
Snoring is not always considered a medical problem, so your insurance may not pay for treatment.
Simply looking at the size of your tonsils and adenoids cannot predict whether you will have snoring or breathing problems.
If you have other health problems, your doctor may have to treat them before you have this surgery.
Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are the most common treatments for children who have obstructive sleep apnea.
Children who have certain health problems that cause bony deformities of the face and head, such as dwarfism or Down syndrome, may need close monitoring before surgery. Also, children who have nervous and muscular disorders, such as cerebral palsy, or who have a head injury may need to be monitored closely before surgery.
Children who have other conditions, such as asthma, upper respiratory infections, and heart problems, need to be treated for those conditions before and after surgery to reduce the risk of complications.
Schechter MS, et al. (2002). Technical report: Diagnosis and management of childhood obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Pediatrics, 109(4): E69. Available online: http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/109/4/e69.
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.