Probing is a procedure that is sometimes used to clear or
blocked tear duct. The doctor inserts a surgical probe into the opening (punctum) of the tear duct to clear the blockage. Afterward, he or she may insert into the duct a tiny tube
with water running through it. The water contains a fluorescein dye. If the
doctor sees that dye has moved into the nasal cavity, he or she will know that
probing worked. Often after probing,
antibiotic eyedrops are used 4 times a day for 1
Probing is rarely used as treatment for adults with a
blocked tear duct. Probing is most often used when a baby:
Your baby's age. The older the child is, the more likely that the doctor will suggest general anesthesia.
How well your baby tolerates pain. Even though
local anesthesia is usually given in the form of eyedrops, your baby may feel some pain. With general anesthesia, no
pain is felt during the procedure, which lowers the overall stress for some
Your comfort level with the risks of anesthesia. With
local anesthesia, the procedure can be done in a doctor's office, and your child
can go home soon after the procedure is finished. Probing using general
anesthesia has a longer recovery time. Usually a baby will need to stay in the
hospital for 1 to 3 hours after the procedure. Side effects, such as nausea,
may also occur. Also, general anesthesia carries a slight risk for
serious side effects.
Whether an additional procedure may need to be done at the same
time. If probing is done using general anesthesia, the surgeon is able to more
thoroughly evaluate the duct and find out whether another procedure is needed
to clear the blockage. Often, if another procedure is needed, it can be done at
the same time, avoiding the need for a separate procedure in the future.