Abstract Background and aims. Surgical resection of mucosa associated lymphoid tissue has been suggested as a protective mechanism against the development of inflammatory bowel disease. Mucosal T-cell activity plays a pivotal role in coeliac disease pathogenesis. We aimed to determine if the development of adult coeliac disease is influenced by appendectomy or tonsillectomy. Methodology. Three hundred patients over 16 years of age with biopsy proven coeliac disease were identified from two hospital databases in South Yorkshire. From these databases, appendectomy and tonsillectomy status was determined and compared with 1033 coeliac disease antibody-negative controls (volunteers recruited from general practice). Logistic regression was performed to correct for the age differences between the two groups; cross-table analysis was performed. Results. Thirteen percent of coeliac disease patients and 12.2% of controls had previous appendectomy ( P=0.71; odds ratio 1.08; 95% confidence interval 0.72–1.62). 20.7% of coeliac disease patients and 24.5% of the controls had previous tonsillectomy ( P=0.17; odds ratio 0.80; 95% confidence interval 0.59–1.10). Conclusions. No significance was demonstrated in either the appendectomy or tonsillectomy group. Surgical removal of mucosal associated lymphoid tissue does not appear to prevent the development of adult onset coeliac disease.