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Blocked Tear Ducts - Surgery

Most babies born with a blocked tear duct will not need surgery. But when surgery is needed, probing is usually done. During probing, the doctor passes a probe through the blocked tear duct to open it.

Probing may be done with local anesthesia (numbing eyedrops) in the doctor's office. Or in an outpatient setting, general anesthesia may be used. The type of anesthesia depends on your child's age and the eye doctor's preference.

For adults, treatment for a blocked tear duct depends on its cause. Probing is typically not effective with adults, and other surgical procedures are usually used.

Other types of surgery for a blocked tear duct in babies or adults may include breaking a nasal bone, placing a tube in the tear duct, or surgically creating a new tear duct.

Surgery choices

Surgical options for a blocked tear duct include:

  • Probing, which involves passing a probe through the blocked tear duct to open it. Probing successfully opens the duct in about 80 out of 100 babies who have blocked ducts.1
    dplink.gif Blocked Tear Ducts: Should My Baby Have a Probing Procedure?
  • Intubation, which involves placing a silicone tube into the tear duct. This may be done if the duct has excessive scarring or if it is hard to pass the probe through the duct. Intubation may also be needed if probing is being repeated because a previous probing failed to open the tear duct.
  • Infracturing, in which the doctor breaks a nasal bone deep within the nose to help open the duct and improve the passageway into the nostril. Infracturing will not permanently affect the size or shape of a baby's nose.
  • Balloon dacryocystoplasty, in which a tiny balloon at the end of a probe is used to open the tear duct.

Surgical options that are rarely used for children-and only after the above procedures have failed-include:

  • Dacryocystorhinostomy (say "DAK-ree-oh-SIS-toh-ry-NAW-stuh-mee"), which creates a new tear duct canal.
  • Endoscopic and laser dacryocystorhinostomy. This procedure creates a new tear duct by using a lighted instrument and passing a flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end (endoscope) into the nostril.

When you talk about surgery options with your child's doctor, use this surgery information formform.gif(What is a PDF document?).

In adults, treatment for a blocked tear duct depends on the cause of the blockage and can include any of the above choices.

What to think about

About 6 weeks after a surgical treatment, you or your child will most likely visit the doctor for an eye exam and may be tested again with the fluorescein dye disappearance test.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 08, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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