Tonsillectomy is a common procedure performed by ENT surgeons for recurrent infections or obstructive sleep apnoea. It is estimated that more than 50,000 tonsillectomies are performed per year in the UK alone.

Post-tonsillectomy haemorrhage occurs in around 5% of patients and represents the most common serious complication for a common operation. The majority of post-tonsillectomy bleeds are self-limiting. A minority (1%) will need to return to theatre for haemorrhage control.  Whilst rare, sudden severe haemorrhage can occur and result in death from airway obstruction or hypovolaemic shock. Bleeding can be occult and early identification is important.

Due to shorter hospital stays and the trend towards no post-operative follow-up, patients often present via the emergency department if complications arise.

Learning bite

Post-tonsillectomy haemorrhage occurs in around 5% of patients. The majority of these patients will present to the emergency department.

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