Adenoid removal

Adenoid removal is surgery to take out the adenoid glands. The adenoid glands sit behind your nose above the roof of your mouth. Air passes over these glands when you take a breath. 

The adenoids are often taken out at the same time as your tonsils. (see: Tonsillectomy

Adenoid removal is also called adenoidectomy. The procedure is most often done in children. 


Your child will be given general anesthesia before surgery. This means they will be asleep and unable to feel pain.

  • During surgery, the doctor places a small tool into your child’s mouth to keep it open.
  • The surgeon removes the adenoid glands using a spoon-shaped tool (curette) or another tool that helps cut away soft tissue.
  • Some surgeons use electricity to heat the tissue, remove it, and stop bleeding. This is called electrocautery. A newer method uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to do the same thing. This is called coblation.
  • Absorbent material, called packing material, is also used to control bleeding.

Your child will stay in the recovery room after surgery until they are awake and can breathe easily, cough, and swallow. Most patients can go home a few hours after surgery.

Why the Procedure is Performed

A doctor may recommend this procedure if: 

  • Enlarged adenoids are blocking your child’s airway. Symptoms in your child can include:
  • Your child has chronic ear infections that:
    • Cause him or her to miss school a lot
    • Continue despite using antibiotics
    • Happen 5 or more times in a year
    • Happen 3 or more times a year during a 2-year period

Adenoidectomy may also be recommended if your child has tonsillitis many times, or if it keeps coming back.

The adenoids normally shrink as children grow older. Adults rarely need to have them removed.


Risks for any anesthesia are:

Risks for any surgery are:

Before the Procedure

Your doctor or nurse will tell you how to prepare for this procedure.

A week before the surgery, do not give your child any medicine that thins the blood unless your doctor says so. Such medicines include aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

The day before the surgery, your child should have nothing to eat or drink after midnight. This includes water.

You will be told what medicines your child should take on the day of surgery.  Give your child the medicine they are supposed to take with a sip of water.

After the Procedure

Your child will go home on the same day as surgery. Complete recovery takes about 1 to 2 weeks.

See also: Going home from the hospital after tonsil and adenoid removal

Outlook (Prognosis)

After this procedure, most children:

  • Breathe better through the nose
  • Have fewer and milder sore throats
  • Have fewer ear infections

Rarely, adenoid tissue may grow back. This does not usually cause problems.

Alternative Names

Adenoidectomy; Removal of adenoid glands


Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 375.

Wooley AL, Wiatrak BJ. Pharyngitis and Adenotonsilar Disease. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 196

Updated: 4/1/2012

Reviewed by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine; Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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