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Management of congenital lacrimal (anlage) fistula
  1. Khalil Al-Salem1,2,
  2. Andrew Gibson1,
  3. Peter J Dolman1
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, Mutah University, Al-Karak, Jordan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter J Dolman, Department of Ophthalmology, University of British Columbia, Eye Care Centre, 2550 Willow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 3N9; peterdolman{at}


Background/aims To review management choices and outcomes for congenital lacrimal (anlage duct) fistulae performed by a single ophthalmologist over a 10-year interval.

Methods All cases of congenital lacrimal fistulae with minimum follow-up of 1 year, seen and managed by the senior author (PJD) from 2000 to 2010, were retrieved from electronic medical records. Recorded data included demographic features, associated abnormalities of the lacrimal outflow apparatus and type of surgical intervention and outcome.

Results 15 cases of lacrimal fistulae were identified. 67% were males, and mean age of presentation was 5 years. All presented with tearing from the eye or fistulous opening. Two patients had Down syndrome (13%). Mean follow-up was 7.3 years. While two cases required excision combined with endonasal dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) or intubation, 9 of 11 (82%) operated cases were successfully treated with simple excision alone. Spontaneous resolution of symptoms occurred in 27% following successful treatment of concurrent nasolacrimal duct obstruction with lacrimal sac massage; in two of these cases, the fistulae were probed and found to have sealed spontaneously. The most common site of the fistula was at the inferior medial canthal area and was connected to the lacrimal sac or common canaliculus in all cases.

Conclusions Congenital lacrimal fistulae may be successfully treated with simple excision alone in most cases. Adjunctive DCR or intubation can be reserved for those identified to have lacrimal outflow tract abnormalities.

  • Anatomy
  • Lacrimal Drainage
  • Treatment Surgery

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