Surgical management of conjunctival tumors. The 1994 Lynn B. McMahan Lecture

Arch Ophthalmol. 1997 Jun;115(6):808-15. doi: 10.1001/archopht.1997.01100150810025.


To our knowledge, there are no articles that describe the specific step-by-step details of the surgical removal of premalignant and malignant conjunctival tumors. We describe our current approach to the surgical management of squamous cell carcinoma (intraepithelial or invasive), localized melanoma, and primary acquired melanosis of the conjunctiva. The surgical method differs with limbal tumors, extralimbal tumors, and primary acquired melanosis. Limbal lesions are managed by localized alcohol corneal epitheliectomy, removal of the main mass by a partial lamellar scleroconjunctivectomy, and supplemental cryotherapy. Tumors located in the extralimbal conjunctiva are managed by alcohol application, wide circumferential surgical resection, and cryotherapy. Primary acquired melanosis is managed by alcohol epitheliectomy, removal of suspicious foci, quadrantic staging biopsies, and cryotherapy from the underside of the conjunctiva. In all cases, a "no touch" method is used and direct manipulation of the tumor is avoided to prevent tumor cell seeding into a new area. We have employed this technique on 109 patients with conjunctival squamous neoplasms and 137 patients with conjunctival melanoma, about 80 of which neoplasms were associated with primary acquired melanosis. Our observations suggest that well-planned initial surgical management using this technique decreases the chance of tumor recurrence for conjunctival melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. We describe a detailed stepwise approach to the surgical management of conjunctival neoplasms. It requires meticulous clinical evaluation and complete removal of the tumor in one operation using a specific technique.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Local
  • Biopsy
  • Conjunctival Neoplasms / pathology
  • Conjunctival Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Medical Illustration
  • Melanosis / surgery
  • Neoplasm Staging