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Blocked Tear Ducts: Balloon Dacryocystoplasty

Topic Overview

A blocked tear duct, which causes tears to build up, sometimes requires surgical treatment. Balloon dacryocystoplasty is a type of surgery used to open a blocked tear duct without making an incision in the nose or face. This surgery is not often done in children who are younger than 1 year.

During surgery, a thin guide wire is inserted through the hole in the corner of the eye through which tears drain (puncta). The wire, which has a tiny, deflated balloon attached, is threaded through to the obstructed area. The balloon is gently inflated with a liquid. The pressure of the balloon opens up and expands the blocked duct. The balloon is then deflated and removed along with the wire.

For adults, a local anesthesia is used for a balloon dacryocystoplasty, which is usually done in a doctor's office. Most people can go home right after the procedure is completed. The pain is often described as similar to having an injection.

Young children are usually given general anesthesia for this procedure.

To prevent infection, antibiotic eyedrops or antibiotics taken by mouth are often used for several days before and after surgery. Sometimes medicines (corticosteroids) are given after surgery to decrease tear duct swelling.

Balloon dacryocystoplasty leaves no facial scars and has less risk of complications than dacryocystorhinostomy. It is sometimes used if a person:

  • Cannot tolerate general anesthesia.
  • Wants to avoid a surgical scar on his or her face.
  • Has tear ducts that remain blocked after dacryocystorhinostomy surgery.

Risks include:

  • A higher recurrence rate of tear duct blockage than if external dacryocystorhinostomy is used.
  • A false passageway being created by the guide wire.
  • Complications from the local anesthesia.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised November 8, 2011

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