Involvement of the lacrimal drainage system by leukemia or lymphoma

Chee Chew Yip, George B. Bartley, Thomas M. Habermann, James A. Garrity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients with leukemic or lymphomatous involvement of the lacrimal drainage system (LDS). Methods: A computerized retrieval system was used to identify patients with histologically proven leukemic or lymphomatous involvement of the LDS. Medical records were reviewed. Results: Biopsies of the lacrimal sac or nasolacrimal duct obtained during dacryocystorhinostomies (DCR) performed at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) between January 19, 1989, and August 26, 1997, were positive for leukemia or lymphoma in 11 patients (15 LDS). Ten patients had previously diagnosed leukemia or lymphoma; the interval between the diagnosis of systemic disease and DCR averaged 5.8 years (range, 7 months to 13 years; median, 5 years). The median age at the time of LDS involvement was 72 years (range, 49 to 85 years). Seven patients (64%) were women, and all were white. The median postoperative follow-up after DCR was 38 months (range, 10 to 65 months). Eight patients had leukemic infiltration of the LDS, 2 patients had B-cell lymphoma, and 1 patient had cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Four patients had bilateral LDS involvement, and the remainder had unilateral disease (right eye, 1 patient; left eye, 6 patients). The most common initial presentation, in 9 patients (82%), was epiphora. Lacrimal irrigation of 2 LDS was deferred because of acute dacryocystitis. Of the remaining 13 systems, 8 were completely obstructed. The blockage was low (in the lower sac or in the nasolacrimal duct) in 6 systems and high (in the upper sac or common internal punctum) in 2 systems. Four LDS were anatomically patent to irrigation but were functionally obstructed. Chemotherapy was the primary treatment in 7 patients, whereas 4 patients underwent radiation therapy. Nine patients responded well to treatment, with alleviation of signs and symptoms, and none of these patients had local recurrence during the follow-up interval. Conclusions: Leukemic or lymphomatous involvement of the LDS is an unusual cause of tearing in elderly patients, but it should be suspected in patients with known systemic disease. Treatment comprising multiple interventions improves the signs and symptoms of this complication of lymphoproliferative disorders in most patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-246
Number of pages5
JournalOphthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Ophthalmology


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