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Recovery Journal of an Adult Tonsillectomy Survivor

Updated on July 22, 2011

UP3 Surgery

Nothing can prepare you for the after effects of UP3 surgery. I couldn’t get straight answers or advice on what to expect other than it was going to be very painful. I have had nine abdominal surgeries and more than three tattoos and I can guarantee that nothing can prepare you for the type of pain you will experience with a UP3 surgery.

What is UP3 ? Well, it has a rather long unpronounceable name but basically it is having your tonsils removed and your uvula (that little do-hicky that hangs at the back of your throat like a finger) removed, as well. I was under the impression that my uvula was going to be shortened and stiffened up so it would not fall back into my throat while I slept but when I got to peek at my throat after surgery it was entirely gone. I know having your uvula removed seems drastic but after I researched the procedure I learned that it is a big contributor to the snoring problem.

Why am I having UP3 surgery? I have obstructive sleep apnea and my tonsils are enormous. I stop breathing approximately 40 times an hour when I sleep, which means I really don’t sleep unless I’m driving. The falling asleep while I’m driving prompted me to take action because that’s a huge safety issue not just for me but for anyone around me. I do have a CPAP machine which constantly shoots spurts of air up my nose all night but the machine isn’t working as well as expected. My tonsils are a big issue because they have been enlarged for over twenty years and I get food and bacteria stuck in them all the time and they are also a big contributor to the sleep apnea issue. When I breathe, as I sleep, my tonsils come together and seal off my throat, so I can’t breathe. Kooky, I know but that’s what is going on.

It was a little difficult trying to get insurance to cover my surgery. I know the problem is linked to my age, because I am almost 40 yrs old. I was told in my twenties that my tonsils will shrink in my thirties and in my thirties I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. My specialist had to appeal the insurance company decision for denial of coverage and finally they agreed that the surgery was medically necessary and it was one of my happiest days. I really wanted my tonsils out. They had become so diseased and abnormal and I didn’t know the entire effects that they were having on my health.

I am writing this journal type article so if you are considering this procedure you have more information than I had. I don’t think I was as prepared as I should have been. I’m not a big baby when it comes to pain, but I think I could have handled my recovery period better if I knew what awaited me as I healed from surgery. I will cover every day for the first week after the UP3 surgery and then the next three weeks a week at a time.

Day 1 (Surgery): Today started off well, even though I didn’t have my surgery until 12:30pm. I hate not being able to eat after midnight and then wait all day until surgery. I knew I wasn’t going to be eating much for a few days after the procedure so I made sure I had my big dinner the night before. I had homemade Philly Steak and cheese sandwich on an open-faced piece of French bread, warm potato salad (German potato salad) and cherry crisp, YUMMY!

The incoming nurse was a delight to talk with and made prep for surgery and my wait better than it could have been. After being prepared for surgery I was taken to a holding area and met with two nurses who were in charge of my care for the entire surgery. We all had a nice discussion about margaritas and sirloin steak dinners and believe it or not, don’t ask me how, we had a good laugh over booby tassels which I was promised would not be on my nipples when I woke up in recovery and to my disappointment there were no booby tassels dangling from anything. I spoke with my specialist before surgery and thats the last thing I remember as I was being wheeled into the operating room door and lights out!

The procedure was about 45 minutes long and I had no complications. I have to tell you that the first thing I noticed when I woke up in recovery was I could breathe 100% better than before. My enlarged tonsils blocked a large portion of my throat and I felt better with them gone. I didn’t know how bad my quality of life was until my tonsils were gone and my health was improved. Who knows what effects having diseased tissue in your body can have on your health until you get it removed? Another thing I noticed when I woke up in recovery was that it felt like I had a bristle brush stuck in my throat. I was relieved to find out that dissolvable stitches were used for my uvula area, but it still felt weird!

I spent the night at the hospital for observation because of my sleep apnea and my age. For some reason having your tonsils out later in life is a whole lot harder on you then if you were a child. I wasn’t expecting to eat for a couple of days but dinner time came and I was brought a dinner of mashed potatoes, three slices of roast beef and soft, cooked carrots. I managed to eat most of my dinner after ingesting my pain meds. I was given steroids along with my pain medicine for swelling. It felt weird when I ate that first time until a week later and even when I drank; it felt like everything was going to come out my nose and I got food and pills stuck in between my nose and throat. I was told by the specialist that this will pass and I needed to allow time for the swelling to go down and my throat to heal for items to go down the right way.

Day 2: I made it through the night ok. I was put on an oxygen reader to make sure I was breathing an acceptable level of oxygen. I didn’t get much sleep because of the pain. Each area of your body can deal out pain differently and after having six abdominal surgeries I thought I would do ok but there is no description I can give for the pain level you experience with throat surgery. It was pretty much bearable until I went home. I got released late in the morning and was given a script for antibiotics and pain meds. I also had to add Sudafed and a laxative to my meds. The Sudafed was for sinus drainage and you need a laxative because pain meds stop you up and I was miserable enough.

Forget about ice cream and popsicles after a tonsillectomy. I tried eating cold items and all they did was burn like someone had a blow torch burning my throat. It was better for me to drink warm tea. Anything cold was difficult to ingest and anything with milk made eating and drinking even more unpleasant so I tried to stay away from milk products and cold food. I literally lived on warm berry tea, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and jello.

Day 3: I feel no better than I did the day of surgery. I am pretty disgusted. I thought that I would be feeling better by day 3, but I am not. At this point I am just trying to muster the energy to get through another day.

Day 4: I am out of pain meds and I want to cry. I have been taking 2 vicoden pills every four hours and it is barely helping with the pain. The pain meds are making me very tired and itchy all over so my husband has went to the doctor’s office to get me something different. The nurse at the doctor’s office told my husband that I was not going to feel better for at least a week. Wow, I feel hopeless right now. I was relieved when the hubster came home with Percocet. Percocet has worked a little better and now the pain is bearable. I still must take 2 pills before I eat or forget eating because it is not worth it. When I don’t eat I just take one Perc. I hate pain pills. I will never understand how people get hooked on them. I don’t like the side effects.

Day 5: I am still trying to just get through the day. I sleep much better at night and have noticed a major difference in how I feel; I have more energy and I feel rested after sleeping. I cried today over mashed potatoes and small curd cottage cheese. I am not a happy camper.

Day 6: I cried over applesauce and pudding. It hurts to swallow, I can’t yawn and just try to blow your nose without wanting to fall over and die. This pain is ridiculous. I woke up in the middle of the night with a dry throat and more pain than I could imagine so I dragged myself downstairs and forced down some pain meds to help me take the pain.

Day 7: I have reached a turning point and the pain has become a little bit more bearable. It is still difficult to swallow and it seems my body wants to produce more saliva, probably because I am trying to avoid swallowing. Having a humidifier has helped me at night. I have used the humidifier since coming home and it feels good when I breathe at night and helps make things a little easier. I will be out of pain meds in three days and will have to take a trip to the doctor’s office before the weekend hits, so I am covered. My bristle brush seems to be disappearing and my stitch line looks smoother today. When I first looked at my throat after surgery it looked like a shark took a bite out of the back of my throat; it was kind of scary. I was wondering about why I wasn’t directed to gargle but I am guessing it is because so I don’t dislodge a clot and the antibiotics are for any possible infection. I was able to eat scrambled eggs for breakfast and I had a vegetable soup for lunch. The macaroni and cheese was a little uncomfortable to eat for dinner, but I managed.

I imagined the pain to be like a terrible strep throat infection and feel like I was swallowing tacks but it is so much worse; it is indescribable. Even after all the pain I have had and the trouble I have had with eating I would still have had the surgery done. I have noticed changes in my hair and skin, my breathing has drastically improved and my energy level has increased and I know, without a doubt, that the surgery was a success and that I just have to get over the recovery hump and then I am home free. Hopelessness is out the window today.

Week 2:

Well, I made it past week two and I'm still kickin! I can yawn now and eat more foods. These past two weeks have been a long road to ho but it is getting easier. I went to my specialist this past week and got a good exam grade. I know it sounds gross but my scabs are looking good. I asked what the white coating at the back of my throat was and was told that that was the scabbing and some bacteria. My specialist told me I would feel some tightening at the back of my throat but that was normal because some scar tissue will grow. Now, I was surprised I wasn't told to gargle or anything like that after surgery but I was given antibiotics and I guess that gargling wasn't necessary.

Week 3:

I am through week three and still improving. I am a little hesitant on eating spicy foods. I think salsa would burn like an S.O.B. and I haven't touched any alcohol but my Diet Coke is going down ok. It is somewhat difficult to yawn and sneeze. Those two items come with discomfort but my quality of life has greatly improved and I don't regret the procedure.

Week 4:

I have recovered quite well. I have some tightening at the back of my throat and I still am careful when I cough or sneeze. I haven't touched spicy foods but everything else has gone down ok. I recently found a few forums on obstructive sleep apnea and there seems to be alot of controversy as to the positive and/or negative effects of UP3 surgery. I don't regret it so far but some forums say you feel better until the two year mark, post surgery, and then your breathing ability diminishes and UP3 is not a standalone procedure. There are other surgeries available for obstructive sleep apnea (ie. a type of nasal surgery, having part of your tongue removed and having your jaw realigned). I really hope I don't need anymore surgical procedures. I believe the UP3 surgery should be enough for my sleep apnea problems but I guess only time will tell.


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      Tony 4 years ago

      Thanks for your blog, it has helped me some. I am 34 yo guy who just had UPPP, tonsilectomy of the Palantine and the Lingual tonsils. In addition I had tongue coblation to reduce the size of my tongue base. It has been miserable, but I am getting thru it. My biggest concern is that I am 13 days past the surgery date and I still have a good bit of swelling, drainage, and stitches in my throat. I dont go to the doc until next week, but I wonder when the swelling and drainage will go down?



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      peter 5 years ago

      waiting 2 visit ENT in 2days due to enlarged tonsils,is it advisable to consent for it beneficial.av no breathing problems,swallowing ok,no tonsilitis for now.

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      Cheryl 5 years ago

      I am now 9.5 weeks post-op and the pain is gone. I occasionally feel a little dryness near the soft palate, but drinking water regularly helps stop that. I had terrible pain 8 days post-op and then ended up with a thrush infection because I was not rinsing my mouth enough after using inhalers for asthma. A course of nystatin suspension used 4 times a day took care of the infection.

      I had a sleep study done 1.5 weeks ago and my surgery has been deemed a success. My AHI was at 20 and it is now 6. My ENT says I can discontinue using CPAP if I choose because I am able to sleep for 5 hours straight before pain in my legs or hips wakes me, which is totally unrelated to the apnea.

      I did have some stitches not dissolve well, but the ENT clipped them out in the office in week 5 and I had no problems after that. I was told it takes several weeks for all stitches to fully dissolve.

      I also lost 20 pounds after surgery. I have been told that this is unusual though. I still need to lose another 100 pounds or so, but since I actually have some energy now, I might even be able to exercise regularly!

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      claire 5 years ago

      Vivi - I'm having the same problem you are. I had a tonsillectomy may 2nd and I still have a stitch that hasn't dissolved and moderate 5/10 pain.

      when is it normal for the stitches to all completely dissolve? Will the doctor have to take it out if it doesn't dissolve soon? Im soo ready for this darn throat to heal :(

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      blueh2o 5 years ago

      I'm considering scheduling this surgery now. Been on xPAP for 13 months with no good results. I've been to Stanford and even got a visit from the legendary Dr. Guilleminault who recommended complete nasal surgery and subsequently, if that didn't improve CPAP therapy, trying Maxillo-Mandibular Advancement. However, the Stanford surgeons don't take my insurance so went to an ENT who now recommends the UP3, tonsillectomy, turbinectomy, and tongue suspension. I'm a little concerned about the success rate of this surgery but I'm running out of options. I'll look forward to the pain if it can help me sleep! If it doesn't, I'll be looking for a good psychologist. Please keep up the posts as all of the feedback is extremely helpful.

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      Vivi 5 years ago

      My surgery was on April, still feel a little pain, the stiches hurts a lot!!! i dont know how long i have to wait until they dissapear :( ....

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      Aly Rachid 5 years ago

      I only removed part of my uvula, I am 53 and now after 2 weeks it's still hurt, my doctor didn't tell me any thing about all that pain. don't do it unless you are going to die.

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      dana 5 years ago

      Hey Kim, I really enjoyed your post it was so far day for day of my recovery from my uppp and sinus surgery.... By no means at all has this been anything leads tban hell question did you is did you ever have bad coughing?????

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      Cheryl 5 years ago

      I am day 8 post-op and I will say that the pain is exactly as really cannot be described! Pain pills have become my best friends right now. I had UPPP, septoplasty, turbinate reduction and balloon sinuplasty all at once. Woke up hurting but feeling like I could breathe so much better. I had an oxygen "tent" placed near my mouth that shot humidified oxygen toeard my mouth. Kept things somewhat moist. The doc controlled the pain well in the hospital with morphine and percocet. I stayed in the hospital overnight. Even was given applesauce the first night. The nose packing was removed the morning after surgery. Came home with a big bottle of percocet and instructions for eating and drinking. It has hurt a lot, but it is improving, albiet VERY, VERY slowly. I can now eat oatmeal and mashed potatoes (no not at the same time) without gagging. Saw the doctor today and he cleared some junk from my nose and I feel a lot better and can breathe through my nose! He said I am healing well and should have a turning point in the pain sometime this week. Learning to swallow with the shaved soft palate has been difficult. Had a lot of things get stuck or go up my nose and even had some jello go up and come out of my nose! Made for some humor during recovery. My husband says my snoring has somewhat diminished.

      Will have another sleep study in a couple of months, once I heal enough to tolerate the pressure from the mask. I do not expect to be cured of sleep apnea, but hopefully this will allow me to use CPAP, which I have not been able to use at all in the last 5 months.

      The biggest thing I can tell anyone to do post-op is to make sure you drink. Water and juice are best, but even non-dairy milk is helpful. I did not drink enough for a couple of days and have paid the price. Now I am consuming 30+ ounces of water alone every day. It does seem to be making a big difference.

      I also recommend a cool mist humidifier filled with distilled water be run near where you sleep. Since getting my humidifier on day 4, I noticed a difference in the quality of my sleep and less pain when I wake. Just not quite as dry as I was on the first 3 days.

      I do not recommend this surgery if the aim is to cure sleep apnea, but if you have tried everything else and still are not getting good sleep, give a lot of thought to having this surgery.

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      Emily 5 years ago

      My husband is on day 17 post op from UP3. He is still in pain, but it is much better than it was last week. He developed an infection at day five and then thrush at day 10. After the thrush was cleared, he finally started to feel human. Not good, but bearable.

      His big thing now is he feels like something is stuck in his throat. He is constantly gagging. The Dr looked at it today and couldn't see anything. He thinks it is muscle spasms and prescribed Reglan (great, another medication). Anyone else having this issue? Does it go away?

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      Cheryl 5 years ago

      I am scheduled to have this surgery in about a month. It sounds like the pain will be intense, but I have to find something to fix my breathing problems. I will also have septoplasty and a cleaning of my nasal turbinates and balloon opening of narrowed sinus passages at the same time. I just hope I can survive the pain. I have a pretty good pain tolerance, but not looking forward to this. I will post an update post surgery and look forward to reading updates from others.

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      Sara 6 years ago

      I have been told recently that I may need to have this surgery, and while I am reading all the bad things that have happened, I see that most of you have had a good outcome in the end. I can only imagine what all that feels like, and do not really want to imagine it, but at the same time, I can't imagine having to deal with my breathing like this. Ill keep you guys posted on my journey and thank you all for sharing!!

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      Bruce 6 years ago

      I am scheduled for this surgery in three weeks. Ive started reading this blog and others similar and it scares the hell out of me.

      Is it worth it?

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      Joanna 6 years ago

      The scabs seemed to go away about 3 1/2 weeks after my surgery. my biggest problem is that i keep gagging when i speak to much i get a lot of mucus build-up for who knows what reason. anyone else have a problem like this? it feels like i'm congested in my throat but i'm nose is totally clear

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      Carrie 6 years ago

      I'm just reporting back from my comment 9 months ago when I was in recovery from the most painful surgeries I ever hope to experience. I've had abdominoplasty where 13 lbs was taken from my under the belly button area and lipo on my sides. 8 whole pounds of that was a skin flap/flab I developed during my first pregnancy in 1990. Weight gain, weight loss, it never changed. The tummy tuck incision from hip to hip was painless, even though I developed a hole that was hard to get closed. The muscle repair kept me sleeping in a recliner for a few weeks but then again, I am not able to take pain medications beyond Ibuprofen or maybe a light muscle relaxer at most. I was in the ocean playing on a small "surf" board at 6 weeks and after that felt fully recovered.

      Again, I had bilateral carpal tunnel surgery a year ago with very little pain and no pain meds needed.

      BUT, this T&A, UP3, Midline Glossectomy just about kicked me to the curb! Again, pain meds were used very little. The only thing I could take was a small dose of Demoral at night when the pain was at its worse. The hyoid myotomy incision was painless on the outside of my neck I will say that much. But the tonsils, my throat and my tongue were more pain than I ever imagined! I did develop thrush for several reasons which may have extended the pain past the usual 10-11 days.

      NOW though, I am fully healed, swallow normal besides a once in a while, rare episode of up the nose. I've had another sleep test which assured us that the surgery was not successful at all. This was a disappointment to me and my doctor, who is accustomed to this surgery working well for his patients. Am I glad I did it? I don't know. But I am glad its behind me and I gave it a chance to help me so I won't always wonder if it would have helped me or not. Would I go through it again knowing the pain that was involved......I seriously doubt it. I can't imagine going through that again.

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      ddd 6 years ago

      Ok thanks did it work for you?

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      kbennett51770 6 years ago

      Its been 3yrs since my surgery and I'm not sure how long it took for the scabs and stitches to dissolve, sorry. Hope you feel better soon!


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      ddd 6 years ago

      I had the up3 done Monday and I won't to no is how long does the stitches to go away and scab to heal can someone tell me.

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      kbennett51770 6 years ago


      Sorry you had to have the surgery but once you are recovered you will feel much better! I'm glad my hub has helped you! Good Luck and take care :)

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      Lsikorski 6 years ago

      I absolutely loved your day by day account. I am currently on day 6 post UPPP. On day 3 I seriously wondered why I did it. Things are getting better now. These blogs are so helpful and I don't feel so alone!

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      kbennett51770 6 years ago

      Hi, photographybyar!

      Sorry to hear you had to endure the procedure but I am confident you will get better. My apnea has improved and I snore, but not nearly as bad as before. I have noticed since the surgery that I cannot try to stop a sneeze; it is painful. If you have to sneeze....let it out and wipe your nose after. I am due to go to the sleep clinic but at this time I am unable to. Life is too busy right now. I haven't felt this good in a long time and I'm enjoying life right now with 2 toddlers to chase after and a book to promote.

      Good luck in your recovery and thank you for your comment :)

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      Addie's Momma 6 years ago from Bakersfield, California


      I had the tonsilectomy and uppp about two and a half weeks ago. We had pretty similar experience, although I am 28 and I went through it with no hospitalization.

      The recovery has been hell. Im eating better and sleeping better but I still have some stitches and sneezing issues.

      Overall I was curious if your apnea improved and did your snoring stay gone?

      Great hub. Very useful info for people who are preparing to go through this adventure:)

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      Carrie  6 years ago

      Hi, I just sent a message through email from your website but I will add a message here too in case there are others going through the same issue.

      15 days ago I had UP3, Midline Glossectomy, Hyoid Myotomy and Suspension, Tonsilectomy and Adenoidectomy. I am still shocked about the pain. Once the tonsil pain stopped I thought I was home free, but no my tongue is really stinging and hurting. Not sure if the cause is from the surgery or the thrush I acquired from the antibiotics and getting fluid through IV's which I hear have a lot of sugar in the fluid.

      If I would have had UP3 done alone I MIGHT be feeling better by now. Not sure what is causing me the most grief but I am depleted in energy since I cannot make myself swallow anymore than I have to.

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      kbennett51770 7 years ago


      Sorry to hear you are not well. I hope the surgery goes well for you. I had it last Sept and I still don't regret it. You'll get through the pain. Moms are tough girls:) I used to wake up gagging too. It's no fun having sleep apnea and other problems w/your breathing. If you need someone in your corner during recovery drop me an email. You can't take care of your family if you can't take care of yourself first :) You should be able to breath better as soon as you wake up in recovery. I wish you better health :)

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      MomofThree 7 years ago

      I'm having a T&A and possibly a UP3 done this coming Thursday (062410). I'm worried, but excited, too....especially about being able to swallow, breathe, and sleep again without feeling like I'm constantly gagging on something. I'm got 3 young kids to chase and I never have the energy to do anything with them...nor my husband either. It's a miserable life...and I'm sorry. Most of the ones saying the surgery is not worth the trouble have probably either not had the proceedure done or had a lousy Dr. Good luck with your continued recovery!