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Children's Health System - Alabama (iFrame)

Children's of Alabama
Healthcare as amazing as their potential
www.childrensal.org
1600 7th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35233
(205) 638 - 9100


Surgery for Tear Duct Blockage

What Is Tear Duct Blockage Surgery?

Doctors do tear duct blockage surgery to open a blocked tear duct. This brief outpatient surgery is done by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Kids usually go home the same day.

Why Is Tear Duct Blockage Surgery Done?

Tears need to drain out of the eyes. When a tear duct is blocked, the tears can't drain. Signs of a blocked tear duct include:

  • too much tearing after a child is about 6–8 months old
  • a serious infection of the tear duct
  • infections of the tear duct that go away and come back again

What Happens Before Tear Duct Blockage Surgery?

The ophthalmologist will do an eye exam to make sure your child has a blocked tear duct and not another eye problem that could cause similar symptoms. The doctor also might do a simple and painless dye test. Putting a special dye in the eye lets the doctor measure the amount of tears it makes and see if they're draining properly.

What Happens During Tear Duct Blockage Surgery?

Babies sometimes can have a blocked duct opened in the ophthalmologist's office without anesthesia. Older kids need to go to a hospital or surgery center where they will get anesthesia (medicine to help them sleep and not feel pain).

An ophthalmologist can do different types of surgical procedures (sometimes in combination) to open a blockage:

  • probing using a thin metal instrument: The ophthalmologist gently passes a thin metal instrument (probe) through the tear duct to open the blockage. Then they flush the duct with sterile water to make sure the pathway is clear. This is the procedure most often used for blocked tear ducts.
  • silicone tube intubation: The ophthalmologist places silicone tubes in the tear ducts to stretch the ducts. The tubes stay in place for 3–6 months, then are removed either in the office or during another short procedure.
  • balloon catheter dilation: The ophthalmologist puts a balloon into the tear duct and inflates it with a sterile solution. This expands the tear duct.

How Long Does Tear Duct Blockage Surgery Take?

The procedure takes about 10 minutes.

Illustration shows a tear duct obstruction before and after surgery, as explained
            in the article

Are There Any Risks From Tear Duct Blockage Surgery?

Clearing a blocked tear duct is a very common and safe procedure. But all surgeries come with risks, including infection, bleeding, or problems with anesthesia.

Sometimes a tear duct can get blocked again.

How Can Parents Help After Tear Duct Blockage Surgery?

Your child should have very little discomfort after the procedure.

The doctor may prescribe eye drops after surgery and will tell you how to care for your child at home. Use the medicine exactly as directed. Babies and kids usually get better in about a week after surgery.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the eye doctor if your child's eye is:

  • red, swollen, or draining pus
  • tearing for more than a week after surgery

If the tears look very bloody or your child has a lot of pain, go the eye doctor or the ER.

Date reviewed: October 2019