Tear Duct Probing, Child

ExitCare Image Tears drain into the nose through a pathway called a "tear duct." Your child has two tear ducts. Many children are born with underdeveloped tear ducts, which can lead to tear-duct blockage, excess tearing, and infection. Tear duct probing is a surgery to open up the tear ducts. Tear duct probing can sometimes be done in a caregiver's office. If your child is given a medicine that makes him or her sleep during the procedure (general anesthesia), the procedure will be done in a hospital or special clinic. The procedure usually takes about 10–20 minutes for one eye.


  • Any allergies.

  • Medicine the child takes, including vitamins, herbs, eyedrops, over-the-counter medicines, and creams.

  • Use of steroids.

  • Previous problems with anesthesia.

  • Any bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Other health problems.

  • Any recent vaccinations.

  • If the child has recently had:

  • A head cold.

  • A sinus infection.

  • A sore throat.

  • A stuffy nose (nasal congestion).

  • An ear infection.


Tear duct probing is a safe procedure. However, problems can develop, such as:

  • Anesthesia problems.

  • Bruising and swelling.

  • Scarring in the tear duct.

  • The probing procedure does not work.

  • Bleeding or infection. This is rare.


  • Your child may have to stop eating and drinking 7– 8 hours before the procedure, or as directed.

  • Ask the caregiver if your child should change or stop regular medicines. Do not give your child aspirin or ibuprofen for 2 weeks before the procedure. These medicines can cause bleeding problems during and after the procedure.


Eyedrops may be put into the eyes to numb them. General anesthesia may be given. A thin, metal wire (probe) is put into the tear duct. The probe is moved down toward the opening inside the nose. Sometimes, a second wider probe is needed to gently open the duct. To make sure the duct is open, the duct is flushed with a germ-free (sterile) solution. Eyedrops or an ointment may be put in the child's eye. A patch may be put over the eye to protect it and keep it clean.


  • When your child can go home will depend on the medicine used during the procedure. If general anesthesia was used, your child will be taken to a recovery room. He or she may be groggy or become nauseous right after the procedure. Your child will stay there until the anesthesia wears off. Your child's blood pressure and pulse will be checked often. Once it is determined that your child is doing well, he or she will be allowed to go home.

  • Older children may complain that their eye hurts, or infants may be fussy. It may feel like there is something in the eye. This is normal. It may last for 1– 2 days after the procedure.

  • It is normal that your child's tears may look pink. You might also see a little bit of blood in the tears. It should go away in 1–2 days.

  • It is normal that your child may have a little blood in his or her nasal discharge. It should go away in 1–2 days.