My 19 year old daughter had a CO2 laser tonsillectomy yesterday. I'm writing because I could find very little first-hand accounts from anyone who'd had this procedure, and I thought others might be searching for information. I'm willing to answer any questions.
The procedure lasted about twenty minutes. She was sitting up in a chair and awake, and I was allowed to stay with her. (I held her hand.) She was given an oral numbing agent, and then had a shot or two inside her mouth to numb the tonsils. They were then vaporized with the laser. Sometimes it hurt, but not terribly. They kept her for about fifteen minutes longer to make sure she was fine, and then released. She could walk and talk just fine, and was in very little discomfort. She was given a 7 day course of antibiotics, and some hydrocodone.
We stopped and bought a large slurpee ice drink, which she said feels great. They advised drinking a lot of very cold drinks the first 2 - 3 days to keep swelling down.
We got home at noon, and she took a hydrocodone "just in case". Although she can take one every 6 hours if she needs them, she waited until 7:45, and even then she only took it because it felt like it "might" start hurting soon. Her pain level, on a scale of 1 - 10, 10 being the worst, has been around 2.
It is 9 a.m. the second day. She is still asleep. I checked, and she did not wake up and take a hydrocodone in the night. We have a cold water humidifier running in her room, I learned on this site that keeping the air moist at night can help her avoid getting a dry, painful throat while sleeping.
Drinking cold icy drinks makes her throat feel better. We were told that she will have some throat pain for the next 2 - 3 days, that on the third day it will probably get worse, and then will get better. Even so, they doubt she'll be using very many of the hydrocodone pills.
So far this experience has been completely different than what people seem to go through with traditional tonsillectomies. We decided to do this after reading many of the accounts of people here, and how they suffered, sometimes for weeks.
The doctor said that right now the CO2 laser treatment is not covered by insurance. The other downside is it does not remove every bit of the tonsils. (That is also why the pain is so much less, because the muscle bed is not exposed. I learned that from my own research online.) The doctor told us that for 95% of patients, the tonsils do not come back using this treatment. He said if someone is in the 5%, they can still have a total tonsillectomy later if necessary.
Thank you for sharing this information. I've been looking and haven't found information on anyone who has had this done. I'm scheduled to have it done June 20th. I have very deep pockets and recently had a lot of debris caught in the right side pocket that caused so much pain. The doctor removed it all and the throat is finally feeling better. He said I am a candidate for the laser surgery to remove the pockets but didn't recommend a full tonsillectomy just yet. I've had chronic infections on the right side of my throat for 10 years. We are thinking the pocket is the culprit. My tonsils are very small otherwise. What kind of symptoms was your daughter having before this procedure?
I would like to know if the shot was painful. I'm not concerned about them working deep in my throat but the shot scares me a little. I have no problem with shots in the gums so I'm thinking this isn't going to be much worse. Did the numbing agent work well? It doesn't sound like your daughter was in much discomfort throughout the entire process. Great news!
She said the shots are very similar to those done in the gum. He put a numbing topical solution in her mouth, too, before the shots. The shots did hurt, but were over in seconds.
When I was researching, I found several references to "laser tonsillectomy", but they are not all alike. The CO2 laser - from what I could learn online - is the least painful method. There is another procedure called coblation that also involves a laser, but isn't as painless.
My daughter's tonsils were just enormous (a size 4, if that means anything), and had pockets that would collect debris. When she became ill they would sometimes swell so much she had trouble speaking. As he was removing them he said they were particularly nasty. He removed about 80% of her tonsils. She hasn't had much trouble with recurrent infections, so it wasn't critical to have them completely removed. I know that it is possible to remove at least 95% of the tonsils using the CO2, but that it might take two or, rarely, even three procedures.
Do you know what type of laser tonsillectomy you're having?
By the way, she took a hydrocodone (her third) this morning around 5 a.m. It is 2 p.m. now, and she's only had two ibuprofen since then, around 11:00. A minute ago she said the pain is about a 2 or 3, not bad. It hasn't been worse than that so far. It is possible that it will get more painful in a couple of days as the throat sloughs off the lasered section to the raw skin underneath, but I'll keep giving updates if people are interested.
Okay, it is day three since her tonsillectomy - done on Monday at noon, today is Wednesday at 2:00. She's taken two ibuprofen today, and says the pain level overall is between 1 - 2. We're going to go shopping for a camera in a few minutes. She had cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch. Her uvula was slightly swollen yesterday, but is back to normal today.
So far, it's been like a miracle. We've been dreading this, because we thought the "no pain tonsillectomy" couldn't be true, but so far, it has been better than our best hopes.
Today is day four, the day they said her throat might get a little more sore. So far, nothing. She hasn't needed any pain meds today at all. She was out all afternoon yesterday and late last night, went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and had tamales, went to a movie, got home around midnight. She feels fine. Her throat is a little sore, but obviously not enough to stop her from doing and eating whatever she wants. She's careful about avoiding citrus or acidic food, and drinks a LOT of ice water, as a precaution, to avoid any swelling.
I don't think there are many places that do the CO2 laser tonsillectomy yet. I heard there might be one in Houston, and our doctor said it's becoming a little more common in California. We're in Dallas. Our doctor here said he has people that come from all over the country to have the procedure.
s connie, I'm very interested in hearing about your daughter's recovery. I'm also from the Dallas area and I'm pretty certain that I need a tonsillectomy. Does the doctor who does the surgery, also perform it on adults? I seem to be having a hard time finding one in Dallas for adults also. Thanks
ckc27, yes, he works only on people 15 and older, because the patients are sitting up in a chair, awake and alert, and young children would be too afraid to hold still. You can find our laser tonsillectomy doctor by searching for The Snoring Center in Dallas, Dr. Schwimmer. Don't let the snoring thing put you off - his nurse told us he has been an ENT for fifteen years and used to do the traditional tonsillectomies. He was great, very relaxed and informative, we didn't feel rushed or pressured at all.
As far as my daughter's recovery, it has been exactly one week ago today. She is 100% healed, the back of her throat is a healthy pink. Her pain level never went above about a 3, on a scale of 1 to 10, and it was usually around a 2. It has been wonderfully easy. I am SO GLAD we didn't do the traditional tonsillectomy.
I called my ENT today to find out exactly what type of procedure I'm having. They confirmed it is a tonsil ablation using the CO2 laser technology. At the moment my tonsils are fine so I hesitate to get this done however I have had recurrent problems with right side throat infections over the years. The theory is this will eliminate one of the potential causes. I think this technique is becoming more common with the ENT's.
I'm so glad s_conni that your daughter did well with this procedure.
4dad, if you do have it done, I hope you will come back here and share your experience. I think if more people have this procedure, insurance companies will begin to cover it. After all, traditional tonsillectomies aren't cheap, with the cost of the anesthesiologist, surgeon, and sometimes a hospital overnight. The laser technology is cheaper, and less painful.
Thanks to both ckc27 and 4dad for your good wishes about my daughter. I hope, if you have them, that your procedures and healing go just as quickly and easily.
I am so glad you made these posts. I am 20 years old and i need my tonsils removed. I was wondering if you would be willing to tell me what you had to pay for the surgery, since insurance doesn't cover it.
Wow, I wish I would of known about this earlier! This sounds like exactly what I needed, I had the deep crypts and large tonsils, but I didn't have any sicknesses because of them. I just recently (the 7th) had my tonsils completely removed, and I'm still in recovery. My ears hurt and I havn't been able to eat much. I can't wait for this to be over so I can go shopping! I'm glad to have it done, but I did have a thought telling me to wait until they come out with something better, though my mom told me there was nothing else. I'll inform her of this though. I'm glad they have something like this! It may not help me now, but hey it may help anyone else I know. Thanks!
I have a consultation tomorrow with Dr. Schwimmer. I am so excited but nervous too. My cousin had this laser tonsillectomy three weeks ago and said it was great. I so hope that I am a candidate for this so I don't have to have the regular tonsillectomy.
I had the co2 tonsil ablation yesterday. It was as s_conni described during the procedure which was not bad at all. I was very concerned about the injection in the tonsils but that part did not hurt as much as I thought. It was a very minor pinch on both sides. The doctor injected each side about 4 times. During the laser treatment I didn't feel much until the doctor got to the deeper tissue. It was then that I felt the laser doing its job and I jumped a few times from the pain of that but it still wasn't unbearable. Now the pain afterward was tough. My right ear started hurting immedately which the doctor said was normal as the brain doesn't always distinguish well between throat and ear pain. That went away pretty quickly thankfully but the throat pain itself only became worse. Right after the procedure I went to the grocery store and dropped off my prescriptoins. They wouldn't be ready for a few more hours which worried me because at that time my throat was starting to hurt badly. I found it difficult to talk. When I returned home I immeidately took Extra Strength Tylenol. Within a half an hour it took the edge off pretty well for awhile until the meds they used wore off. Throughout the day my throat hurt terribly and I had to take pain medication every 4 hours. I found myself looking at the clock at about every 3 1/2 hours. While I don't think this pain is as bad as a traditional tonsillectomy the throat pain for me was still tough. The good part is that I was able to do everything I needed/wanted including a workout in the afternoon. I didn't feel tired at all. In fact I got away with Extra Strength Tylenol for the day and then moved to hydrocone at night. I don't think you can do that with a traditional tonsillectomy. I found keeping busy helped keep my mind off the pain. Today, I'm particularly having trouble swallowing. Eating is a bear. I could hardly eat yesterday and had to stick with things like yogurt. Interestingly, the post op instructions say to drink/eat only lukearm fluids. They said to avoid very hot or cold drinks. I was surprised!
Well, that's it. They say the danger period for bleeding is day 4-9. I pray this ony feels better and not worse. I would say on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most painful, my pain with this procedure reached an 8 and is now about a 5 or so especially when swallowing.
I've not had the courage to look inside my mouth but the doctor said it will look like something was barbequed!