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Tarsorrhaphy is a rare procedure in which the eyelids are partially sewn together to narrow the opening.


The eye needs the a lid to protect it. It also needs tears and periodic blinking to cleanse it and keep it moist. There are many conditions that impair these functions and threaten the eye, specifically the cornea, with drying. Until they can be corrected, sewing the eyelids partially together helps protect the eye.
A partial list of the conditions that can require tarsorrhaphy includes:
  • Paralysis or weakness of the eyelids so that they cannot close or blink adequately. Bell's palsy is a nerve condition that weakens the muscles of the face, including the eyelids. It is usually temporary. Myasthenia gravis also weakens facial muscles, but it is usually treatable. A stroke can also weaken eyelids so they do not close.
  • Exophthalmos (the eyes sticking out of their sockets) occurs with Graves' disease of the thyroid and with tumors behind the eyes. If the eyes stick out too far, the lids cannot close over them.
  • Enophthalmos is a condition in which the eye falls back into the socket so that the eyelid function is inadequate.
  • Several eye and corneal diseases cause swelling of the cornea and require temporary added protection until the condition resolves.
  • Sjögren's syndrome reduces tear flow to the point where it can endanger the cornea.
  • Dendritic ulcers of the cornea caused by viruses may need to be covered with the eyelid while they heal.


The use of eye drops and contact lenses to moisten and protect the eyes must be considered first before tarsorrhaphy is performed.


Stitches are carefully placed at the corners of the eyelid opening (called the palpebral fissure) to narrow it. This allows the eye better lubrication and less exposure to the air. Eyeball motion can then help bathe the cornea in tears when it rolls up under the lid. The outpatient procedure is done under local anesthetic.


Tarsorrhaphy is a minor procedure done under local anesthesia. Special preparation is not necessary.


Eye drops or ointment may still be needed to preserve the cornea or treat accompanying disease.


Tarsorrhaphy carries few risks. If complications occur, they are usually minor eyelid swelling and superficial infection.



Sardegna, Jill Otis, and T. Paul. The Encyclopedia of Blindness and Vision Impairment. New York: Facts on File Inc., 1990.

Key terms

Cornea — The clear part of the front of the eye through which vision occurs.
Enophthalmos — A condition in which the eye falls back into the socket and inhibits proper eyelid function.
Exophthalmos — A condition in which the eyes stick out of their sockets and inhibit proper eyelid function.
Palpebral fissure — Eyelid opening.
Sjögren's syndrome — A connective tissue disease that hinders the production of tears and other body fluids.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


suture of a portion of or the entire upper and lower eyelids for the purpose of shortening or closing the palpebral fissure.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


The suturing together of the eyelid margins, partially or completely, to shorten the palpebral fissure or to protect the cornea in keratitis or in paralysis of the orbicularis oculi muscle.
[tarso- + G. rhaphē, suture]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


Partial or complete suture of the eyelid margins to shorten the palpebral fissure or to protect the cornea.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


The suturing together of the eyelid margins, partially or completely, to shorten the palpebral fissure or to protect the cornea in keratitis or in paralysis of the orbicularis oculi muscle.
[tarso- + G. rhaphē, suture]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Sewing together of the eyelids after removal of strips of marginal skin so that the raw areas heal together and remain closed. Tarsorrhaphy may be performed to conceal an unsightly and blind eye, but is also used to protect the CORNEA from drying and damage in excessive protrusion of the eye (EXOPHTHALMOS). BOTULINUM TOXIN can be used as a alternative in cases in which only a few weeks' coverage is needed.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


A surgical procedure consisting of suturing the upper and lower eyelids together either partially or completely. It provides a temporary protection to the eye or forms part of the treatment of dry eyes. See alacrima; keratoconjunctivitis sicca.
Millodot: Dictionary of Optometry and Visual Science, 7th edition. © 2009 Butterworth-Heinemann
References in periodicals archive ?
Eight of the patients had corneal anaesthesia and TMT was offered to them as a better operative choice when compared to Tarsorraphy. (6) Epiphora cleared in seven of them and exposure keratitis reversed in all the four who had it pre-operatively.
To achieve a better cosmetic result and treat the "lateral flare" or rounding of the lateral canthus, a tarsorraphy or lateral canthoplasty can be performed (Collin 2006).
For replacement, the globe was cleaned with warm normal saline and Chloramphenicol ophthalmic ointment was applied to lubricate the eyeball and Allis tissue forceps were used to hold the eyelids and gentle pressure was applied to eyeball while simultaneously pulling on eyelids and proptosis was reduced and was followed by temporary tarsorraphy to retain the globe in position leaving some space at medial canthus for post-operative Chloramphenicol ophthalmic ointment application E-collar was advised to prevent self trauma.
Lateral tarsorraphy is simple but produces a poor cosmetic outcome.
Additionally, tarsorraphy was also performed to facilitate healing as well as protection of eye.