Surgical management of circumscribed conjunctival melanomas

Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 1998 May;14(3):208-15. doi: 10.1097/00002341-199805000-00012.


Circumscribed conjunctival melanoma usually arises in the bulbar conjunctiva and less often in the forniceal or palpebral conjunctiva. After simple superficial removal, employed by many ophthalmologists, these tumors have an increased tendency toward local recurrence and distant metastasis. A surgical procedure designed to remove the tumors completely and minimize the changes of recurrence would be desirable. The authors employed a surgical approach to conjunctival melanoma excision, which they believe insures more complete tumor removal and decreases the chances of recurrence and metastasis. The surgical management of melanoma in the limbal region of the bulbar conjunctiva consists of localized alcohol epitheliectomy, removal of the mass by a partial lamellar scleroconjunctivectomy, and supplemental double freeze-thaw cryotherapy to the adjacent remaining conjunctiva by a specific technique. For tumors located in the forniceal or palpebral conjunctiva, wide surgical resection with alcohol treatment to the scleral base and cryotherapy to the surrounding conjunctiva is performed. A "no touch" technique is employed and direct manipulation of the tumor is strictly avoided in an effort to prevent tumor cell seeding into a new area. The technique currently employed has evolved from experience with circumscribed conjunctival melanoma excision during a 20-year period. About 80 patients had circumscribed conjunctival melanoma unassociated with appreciable primary acquired melanosis. Although it is not the purpose of this article on surgical technique to provided a detailed statistical analysis of the results, the authors currently believe that this technique should be employed in all cases of circumscribed lesions in which conjunctival melanoma is a diagnostic consideration. Incisional biopsy and frozen sections are generally not advisable. Preliminary observations suggest that this method decreases the chances of local recurrence.

MeSH terms

  • Conjunctival Neoplasms / pathology
  • Conjunctival Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / surgery*
  • Melanosis / pathology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / pathology
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures*