Complications of tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1998 Jan;118(1):61-8. doi: 10.1016/S0194-5998(98)70376-6.


Adenotonsillectomy is generally safe surgery, but surgeons should be cognizant of potential complications and be prepared to manage them. Postoperative hemorrhage usually responds to local measures or cautery but can be life-threatening. Preoperative screening of coagulation profiles appears unnecessary. Anesthetic risks have declined with modern techniques, but airway risks, aspiration, and pulmonary edema are possible. Nasopharyngeal valving may be altered by velopharyngeal incompetence or nasopharyngeal stenosis. Sore throat, otalgia, fever, dehydration, and uvular edema are more common postoperative complaints. Less common complications include atlantoaxial subluxation, mandible condyle fracture, infection, eustachian tube injury, and psychological trauma. The prevalence, management, and strategies for avoidance of these are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy* / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications* / prevention & control
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / prevention & control
  • Preoperative Care
  • Tonsillectomy* / adverse effects