PURPOSE: To evaluate the long-term outcomes of surgical occlusion of lacrimal puncta using thermal cautery in the management of ocular surface diseases.
METHODS: We reviewed medical records of 80 consecutive patients from a single academic center who underwent punctal cauterization. Patient demographics, ocular history, symptoms, and signs of ocular surface diseases pre- and post-cauterization were recorded.
RESULTS: A total of 80 patients (171 puncta) were included, with an average age of 59 years and a follow-up duration of 27 months. The most common ocular morbidity was ocular graft-versus-host disease (n = 36), followed by primary keratoconjunctivitis sicca (n = 15). Indications for punctal cauterization included plug loss (n = 51), difficulty in plug fitting (n = 11), plug-related complications (n = 6), recanalization of previous cauterization (n = 7), and severe ocular surface disease requiring permanent punctal closure (n = 4). After punctal cauterization, the percentage of eyes with severe (21%) and moderate (25%) dry eye decreased significantly (8% and 19% at 3 months and 6% and 17% at 12 months, P = 0.0006). Fifty-four percent of patients reported improvement in their symptoms. The rate of recanalization was 21% during the follow-up period. The use of topical corticosteroids was associated with higher recanalization rate. Associated complications were limited to temporary pain and swelling.
CONCLUSIONS: Punctal cauterization is an effective modality in treating severe ocular surface diseases in patients who repeatedly lose punctal plugs, and it can be easily performed in a clinic setting without major complications. However, cauterization may need to be repeated in up to a quarter of cases because of recanalization.