Preparing for surgery


Your doctor will start with a physical examination that may include:

  • Using a lighted instrument to look at your throat and most likely your ears and nose, which may also be sites of infection
  • Checking for a rash which can be associated with some cases of bacterial throat infection
  • Gently feeling your neck to check for swollen glands (lymph nodes)
  • Listening to your breathing with a stethoscope
  • Checking for enlargement of the spleen (to exclude Epstein-Barr virus, which also inflames the tonsils).

Throat swab

Your doctor may swab your throat to get a sample of secretions. The sample will be checked for streptococcal bacteria.

If the test comes back positive, you almost certainly have a bacterial infection. Not all infections are caused by bacteria, though. Some are caused by viruses, and these don’t respond to antibiotics.

Other tests

The doctor may order a blood test including a full blood count to further pin down the cause of the infection and a coagulation study to avoid being surprised by a bleeding disorder during surgery.

If any important problems are detected or if there are any anaesthetic issues, your surgery may be postponed or modified. If other medical conditions are identified, you may be referred to other specialists.

Some health conditions can increase the risks of surgery and the associated anaesthesia. Your surgeon will discuss the best course of action if you have one of them.

Sleep study

This is often done to determine whether the enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids are contributing to a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnoea.

Consultation with the anaesthetist

There’ll be time before your surgery for you to speak with your anaesthetist and ask any questions.

Your anaesthetist will explain the options and risks of anaesthesia. They’ll want to know about any other existing medical conditions you may have, especially conditions such as lung or heart disease, kidney problems or previous problems with anaesthesia. Learn more about your anaesthetic options.

Preparing your child for surgery

Most children respond well to a simple explanation of the procedure a few days ahead. Answering your child’s questions simply and truthfully will avoid the risk of distressing them on the day.

Try to stay calm. Children can tell when you’re anxious or upset. Staying calm will help to minimise their distress. If you’re worried about the procedure or the anaesthesia, talk to the doctor or anaesthetist before your child goes into theatre.

You may be able to stay with your child. In some hospitals, the anaesthetist will let parents stay with their child until they’re asleep. This can help your child stay relaxed. It’s not usually necessary for babies under 6 months or older children.

Watching your child go to sleep may be upsetting and stressful for you. They may roll their eyes, twitch, snore, and go limp. This is all normal. Sometimes your child may need to be briefly restrained while they go to sleep.

As soon as your child is asleep, you’ll need to leave so the anaesthetist can concentrate on looking after them.

Your anaesthetic options

The type of anaesthetic and pain relief you may be offered.


Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.