What Is a 3-Snip Procedure?

A 3-snip procedure is one of the techniques to treat watery eyes or excessive tears in the eye.
A 3-snip procedure is one of the techniques to treat watery eyes or excessive tears in the eye.

A 3-snip procedure is one of the techniques to treat watery eyes or excessive tears in the eye. This procedure is performed to widen the tear duct and improve the drainage of tears in the patient suffering from an abnormal narrowing of the tear duct.

There is a small hole at the inner corner of the upper and lower eyelids. These holes are known as puncta. The puncta are one of the structures responsible for collecting tears and draining them into the nose or nasal passage. If these holes are too small, tears may not drain properly, which will result in excessive tears called a watery eye. A patient may have this abnormality in one or sometimes in both eyes.

  • This procedure is usually done under local anesthesia, which may be injected right beside the blocked tear duct. It is a minor procedure and no stitches are required for this procedure. This procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis, and the patient may leave the clinic or hospital after the procedure.
  • Usually, the surgeon makes three small snips or incisions into the skin surrounding the puncta on the lower eyelid to create a larger tear duct opening. These incisions are usually made in a triangular or rectangular fashion.
  • Once these three snips are created, the surgeon may flush some water through the tear duct to check if the puncta have opened sufficiently. The patient may feel the tear draining in the back of the throat if the procedure is successful.
  • This procedure may usually last less than 30 minutes.

Does a 3-snip procedure have any risk?

Yes, all operations have some level of risk. The most common risks of the 3-snip procedure include:

  • Surgery related complications like pain and infection and bleeding
  • Bruising and swelling of the eyelids are the most common complication seen in the procedure
  • Pinkish color tears are normal for the first few days
  • The puncta may become small again, or sometimes may close completely. Further surgery may be needed to correct this.

When is 3-snip recommended?

An ophthalmologist may recommend a 3-snip punctoplasty if the patient has below symptoms:

  • Excessive tearing in the eyes
  • Tears overflowing onto the cheeks and causing skin irritation
  • Irritation or redness in the eyes due to using tissues constantly

What is a recovery period after a 3-snip procedure?

The patient may be able to resume normal activities within a day after the procedure. If there are no complications, the patient may notice that tears are drained appropriately within a few minutes; however, it may usually take a few months to completely heal. A few common recommendations are given to the patient:

  • The patient may be asked to rest their eyes for a couple of days.
  • The patient may need to continue pain medications and antibiotics to ease and prevent any further discomfort.
  • The patient may use an ice pack for quick relief.
  • Travelling and driving may not be recommended at least for a week.
  • A few common activities like bending, swimming, engaging in vigorous exercise, or lifting any heavy articles after the surgery may not be recommended.
  • An eye shield or protective glasses may be given to the patient to protect the eye from any injury or infection. Eye makeup is not recommended for a few weeks after surgery.

What is the outlook of the 3-snip procedure?

The 3-snip procedure is a minor and minimally invasive procedure with almost no complications. Most of the patients found the procedure to be effective. Patients found the resolution to excessive tearing within 1.2 months postoperatively. Another surgery, such as stent placement, to drain the eyes is required for very few patients.


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