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Adenoids and adenoidectomy


The adenoids are small lumps of tissue that are located above the tonsils at the back of the throat. They are part of the immune system, but as they do not have an essential immune system function, they are only present in children and reach their maximum size at three to five years old. They then start to shrink and are barely visible by the teenage years and disappear completely in adulthood.


The adenoids can become swollen or enlarged as a result of:

  • Infection (bacterial or viral)
  • Allergies
  • Problems at birth


An adenoidectomy is an operation to remove adenoids that may be enlarged or causing problems such as breathing difficulties, snoring or sleep apnoea. It is often carried out alongside a tonsillectomy. It has very few risks and the body’s immune system is not affected adversely.

An adenoidectomy may be recommended after swelling has resulted from bacteria or a virus. Sometimes after the infection has cleared up, adenoids may stay enlarged. Sometimes allergies can make adenoids swell. Some children may be born with enlarged adenoids.

The adenoidectomy is carried out by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and takes around half an hour under general anaesthetic, The child can usually leave hospital the same day.

There may be some temporary discomfort for a few weeks afterwards, including sore throat, earache or blocked nose.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 17, 2015

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