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 The surgical approach to dealing with problem adenoids has increasingly been replaced by a medical approach.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.
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.