An adenoidectomy is an operation to remove enlarged adenoids.

Adenoids are small lumps of tissue at the back of the throat behind the nose. They're part of the immune system and help fight infection.

Why an adenoidectomy is done

An adenoidectomy is mainly done in children to help with problems caused by enlarged adenoids.

These problems can cause pain or partially block the airway. They include:

The adenoids usually start to shrink around the age of 4 and disappear by early adulthood.

Your doctor might suggest waiting to see if these problems get better by themselves rather than having an adenoidectomy, depending on how serious the problems are.

An adenoidectomy may be done in adults who have these problems, but this is not common.

What happens during an adenoidectomy

Your child will not be able to eat or drink for some time before having an adenoidectomy. The hospital will give you information about this.

The operation is usually done as a day case. This means your child should be able to go home on the same day once they're well enough.

It's done under general anaesthetic, so they'll be asleep during the operation and will not feel any pain. It usually takes about 30 minutes.

The surgeon removes the adenoids through the mouth. They will either be carefully cut out or removed using special tools that apply heat or radio frequency energy.

Dissolvable stitches may be used to stop any bleeding.

The process is the same for adults having an adenoidectomy.

An adenoidectomy may be done at the same time as a tonsil removal (adenotonsillectomy) or surgery to put a small tube in the ear to drain fluid (grommet surgery).

After the operation

Your child will spend some time in the recovery room and have medicine to help with pain and swelling.

After the operation they may:

Recovering from an adenoidectomy

It usually takes about a week to recover from an adenoidectomy. There are things you can do to help your child recover afterwards.


  • keep them off school or nursery for about a week to rest

  • try to avoid being around other people, to reduce the chance of them getting an infection

  • give them paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with pain – follow the instructions on the leaflet that comes with the medicine

  • encourage them to eat their usual foods as soon as possible to help their throat heal

  • make sure they drink lots of fluids


Never give aspirin to children under 16, unless their doctor prescribes it.

Possible complications of an adenoidectomy

An adenoidectomy is a common and straightforward procedure.

Complications are rare but can include:

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

Your child has recently had an adenoidectomy and they:

  • are in a lot of pain that does not get better with pain relief or is getting worse
  • have a high temperature
  • have a painful or stiff neck
  • are not drinking fluids

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online. Call 111 to speak to someone if you need to get help for a child under 5.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

Your child has recently had an adenoidectomy and they have:

  • any bleeding from their throat or nose
  • blood in their sick, or black or brown sick

Page last reviewed: 10 March 2023
Next review due: 10 March 2026