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How Common Is Adenoid Surgery in Adults?

Children under 15 are much more likely to need adenoid surgery than adults.
A human head with the adenoids in red and yellow.
Surgery may be required if other methods to treat the adenoids are unsuccessful.
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  • Written By: U. Ahern
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Adenoid surgery in adults is relatively uncommon and, overall, adenoidectomies have decreased during the past 50 years. Around 90% of all adenoid surgery in the United States is performed on children under the age of 15. The surgical approach to dealing with problem adenoids has increasingly been replaced by a medical approach. Problems with the adenoids, the lymphoid tissues located high in the throat where the nose merges with the mouth, are first treated with medicine. Surgery is reserved for instances where other treatments have not been effective or if cancer is found.

In their role of aiding the immune system, adenoids capture disease-causing airborne germs and produce antibodies to destroy these germs. Unfortunately, they are at risk for infection because they perform this role. Antibiotics can often clear up infections and prevent the need for surgical removal of the adenoids. By the time they reach puberty, most children outgrow these repeated infections.

Adults with swollen adenoids that have not responded to medical approaches may require surgery. Infected or swollen adenoids can obstruct the air passages and cause unpleasant symptoms, such as snoring, a blocked nose, nasal speech, and a dry sore throat. If the tonsils are also swollen, they can contribute to breathing difficulties by restricting the airway at the back of the throat. This becomes especially pronounced at night, when the muscles relax and the decreased airflow to the lungs can cause sleep apnea.

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Adenoid surgery in adults may be necessary if swelling and infection does not respond to medical treatment. The initial symptoms can lead to more severe physical problems over time and, if left unresolved, issues like sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems. Infection in the adenoids can spread to the ears and sinuses as well.

If surgery is indicated, it is typically done on an outpatient basis and is a relatively simple procedure. Preformed under general anesthesia, the surgeon removes the adenoids through the open mouth. No incisions are required, and the area is cauterized to minimize bleeding. The time under anesthesia is approximately 20 minutes.

Recovery after surgery takes about one week. Soft and bland foods are best until the surgery site completely heals over. Because there are no stitches, the cut area heals naturally. Symptoms that necessitated the surgery should be gone once the procedure is complete and, if the adenoids were the cause of obstructive apnea, with the removal of the obstruction, normal sleep patterns should return.

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anon352367
Post 4

Two of my children were nine before the doctor finally removed their adenoids. It was a dentist who finally said, "Hey, this kid can't breathe."

Once you're recommended to a specialist, they pretty much just do it. It was more traumatic for them at this age and hard to get them to drink and they still remember to this day.

My older child had his adenoids out at three and was playing in the recovery room like nothing happened. I should have had mine out as a child but it was always delayed because of illness. As an adult, now I want them gone. It's like having a golf ball or something stuck behind my nose all the time. I have had problems my whole life with illness/snoring breathing (especially at the dentist's office), but I can't convince anyone to do it.

Sara007
Post 2

Has anyone had a problem getting your doctor to agree to let your child have adenoid surgery?

If so, and your little one is suffering from constant tonsillitis and swollen adenoids, and the antibiotics take forever to work, make sure you find a doctor that will do the surgery.

Some doctors are still refusing to do it, thinking that the children will grow out of it. This is not the case, and even doctors admit that adenoid surgery in adults is much riskier and more painful. I think it is best to get it done when children are between the ages of between four and sever, as that is when many physicians say that the process is easiest.

lonelygod
Post 1

For those who have adenoid surgery as an adult, the recovery process wasn't too bad for me the first day, although days two to four were quite painful. It rather felt like I was swallowing razors whenever I drank something.

Unfortunately, when you have adenoid surgery you must drink a lot to keep hydrated and to keep your mouth and throat moist. If you think drinking is painful, try and let the newly healing area get dry!

After some major painkillers I felt better, and beyond those three days of sharp pain, the feelings of discomfort in my throat dulled to that of having a constant case of strep throat for about 2 weeks.

Apparently, it is common to have your ears hurt, which you will probably find strange. I found that using ice packs on my ears and throat were a lifesaver.

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