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Med Sci Monit. 2014 Apr 17;20:628-38. doi: 10.12659/MSM.890098.

Diagnostic imaging of the nasolacrimal drainage system. Part I. Radiological anatomy of lacrimal pathways. Physiology of tear secretion and tear outflow.

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Department of Medical Radiology, Military Institute of Medicine, Warsaw, Poland.
Department of Ophthalmology, Military Institute of Medicine, Warsaw, Poland.


Excessive watering of the eye is a common condition in ophthalmological practice. It may be the result of excessive production of tear fluid or obstruction and insufficiency of efferent tear pathways. The differentiation between obstruction and insufficiency of the lacrimal pathways is still clinically questionable. In the diagnostic process it is necessary to perform clinical tests and additional diagnostic imaging is often needed. Dacryocystography, with or without the extension of the dynamic phase or subtraction option, still remains the criterion standard for diagnostic imaging of the lacrimal obstruction. It may help to clarify the cause and exact place of the obstruction and provide information for further management, especially surgical treatment. Increasingly, new techniques are used in diagnostic imaging of the lacrimal tract, such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance, and isotopic methods. Adequate knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the lacrimal system and the secretion and outflow of tears is the basis for proper diagnostic imaging. The purpose of this paper is to present the exact anatomy of the lacrimal system, with particular emphasis on the radiological anatomy and the current state of knowledge about the physiology of tear secretion and drainage.

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