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My operation in France: Removal of tonsils

The inside story of readers who have had operations in France – and how they found the health service, by Gillian Harvey

When nine-year-old Xavier Hodencq, from Bellac in Haute-Vienne, Limousin suffered from repeated bouts of tonsillitis combined with sleeping difficulties, doctors decided that it was time to act.

His mother, Natalie Hodencq, shares the story of his illness and operation.

Initial symptoms

Xavier’s first bout of tonsillitis was on the day of his first birthday. He continued to develop regular bouts for the following two years, requiring multiple antibiotic treatments.

He also suffered from suspected sleep apnea (apnée – a condition where breathing stops and starts during sleep) due to the fact that his tonsils were over-large.

At the doctor

In 2012 after Xavier, then three, had experienced his sixth episode of tonsillitis in a year, the family doctor referred him to an ear, nose and throat specialist at Hôpital Femme-Mère-Enfant, Limoges.

He commented that Xavier had the largest tonsils he had ever seen on a child his age! He booked another appointment for sixth months’ time to see whether the problem cleared up on its own.

At the follow-up appointment there had been no improvement, so the operation was planned.

The operation

Xavier was admitted to hospital on the day of his operation, which took place four days after his fourth birthday in 2013.

Before going to theatre, he had to shower in an iodine solution and change into a hospital gown. I was also asked to change into a gown so that I could administer his gas and cuddle him as he went to sleep.

The operation took about 45 minutes and was carried out under general anaesthetic. Afterwards, he felt very tired and uncomfortable, but also very hungry as he had not had anything to eat since the night before.

However, we were only able to give him ice shards that day, to ensure that his throat was given a chance to heal.

Staff gave him paracetamol for his pain, and offered stronger pain relief if needed.

However, Xavier managed well on the paracetamol, so we did not have to request anything else.

Hospital stay

In total, Xavier spent two nights in the hospital after his operation. The day after the operation, he was able to eat soft fruit and yoghurt. On the third day he was given pasta and chopped ham, which he had to eat before he was allowed home.

Two other children who had had the same procedure were kept in as they would not eat, but Xavier managed to clear his plate and was allowed home.

He stayed off school for three further days, but was back in class – fit and well – the following Monday.

Was the treatment effective?

Since having his tonsils removed Xavier’s had a massive improvement in his health.

He is now nine years old and has only had antibiotics once since his operation, compared with around eight times in the preceding years.

He has also grown a lot – this was something we were concerned with as when he had tonsillitis previously he would not eat, and this stalled his growth.

He is happy and healthy and is making excellent progress at school.


FACTS ON CHILD TONSILLECTOMY by Dr Marc Brones, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Clinique Blomet - Ramsay Générale, Paris

Why is a tonsillectomy usually performed?

A doctor will decide a tonsillectomy is needed if children get more than five episodes of tonsillitis in a one-year period.

They are also performed if the tonsils are too big and become an obstacle to breathing.

How long does the procedure take?

The operation usually takes 20-30 minutes and is performed under general anaesthetic.

How long do patients usually stay in hospital?

Usually patients stay just one night after the operation. However, if the child does not drink or eat anything after the operation is complete it might be necessary for them to stay another night, until they have eaten.

How long does it take to heal?

It usually takes 7-10 days for the throat to heal properly after the operation.

Do children who have their tonsils removed experience any problems after the procedure?

No. Their immunity level may be a little lower for a month or so after the operation but afterwards everything is usually fine.

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