Snoring and ENT Related Sleep Disorders

About Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy for OSA

Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy are the names of the operations performed to remove the tonsils and adenoids respectively. 

The tonsils and adenoids are part of a ring of lymphatic tissue in the throat, known as Waldeyer’s ring. This ring includes:

  • the palatine tonsils (usually referred to as “the tonsils” because these are the only tonsils that can be seen through the mouth)
  • the adenoids located at the uppermost part of the throat (pharynx) at the back of the nose
  • the lingual tonsils located on the surface of the back of the tongue (the tongue base)  

In some patients, the enlargement of the tonsils, adenoids and/or lingual tonsils cause narrowing of the upper airways and contribute to snoring & Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). Removing the tonsils, adenoids and/or lingual tonsils create extra space in the throat and thus play an important role in the treatment of OSA. Tonsillectomy is also performed prior to surgery to widen the throat when uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is performed. 

The procedure or procedures are performed in the operating theatre under general anaesthesia. There are no incisions on the face or neck as the operation is performed via the nose and/or mouth. A variety of techniques can be used to remove the tonsils: electrocautery (most common), cold steel (surgical knife) or Coblation.

Tonsillectomy with/or without adenoidectomy is a very effective treatment for patients where the main cause of upper airway narrowing is enlargement of the tonsils and/or adenoids. This is a fairly common phenomenon in children; thus tonsillectomy with/without adenoidectomy is an effective treatment for a majority of children with paediatric OSA and in well-selected adult patients.