Caldwell-Luc operation

Dr Yair Glick et al.

The Caldwell-Luc operation uses an external approach for surgical treatment of the severely diseased maxillary sinus. It is an alternative to middle meatal antrostomy done via endonasal endoscopic surgery and was the primary approach used for accessing the maxillary sinus before the advent of endoscopic sinus surgery.

The Caldwell-Luc operation is reserved for selected patients with an extensive maxillary disease, particularly those with massive polyposis or fungal disease. Failure to clear the maxillary mucosa completely could result in early postoperative recurrence of disease. The anterior and inferior regions of the maxillary antrum are especially difficult to access endoscopically.

  • complicated acute or chronic rhinosinusitis, usually as an adjunct to endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS)
  • pterygomaxillary space surgery
  • trauma, e.g. maxillary floor fractures
  • foreign body retrieval
  • benign tumour removal
  • combined with ESS: orbital decompression and inverting papilloma removal
  • under general anaesthesia, lidocaine-adrenaline solution is injected into gingivobuccal sulcus, and vasoconstrictor-soaked pledgets are placed in nasal cavity
  • incision made in gingivobuccal sulcus above canine fossa
  • incision continued through periosteum, which is then elevated superiorly and infraorbital nerve identified
  • window cut into maxillary antrum with osteotome
  • punch forceps can be used to enlarge window
  • curved haemostat passed into sinus under inferior nasal concha to create antrostomy
  • maxillary sinus can now be visualised through both windows and debridement (or any other procedure; see "indications" above) commences
  • gingival incision is then closed with absorbable sutures
  • to avoid damage to nasolacrimal duct, antrostomy should be created at least 1 cm posterior to anterior edge of inferior concha
  • in children, incision should be made above secondary dentition. Visualisation by CT or even plain radiographs can be used to avoid injury

The Caldwell-Luc operation has largely been replaced by the canine fossa puncture (CFP) technique3, whereby debridement is performed through a 4 mm trocar under direct visualisation. Being minimally invasive, CFP is associated with a lower complication rate.

The technique was first described by George W Caldwell in 1893 and Henri Luc in 1897.

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Article information

rID: 51780
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Caldwell-Luc procedure
  • Caldwell-Luc antrostomy
  • Caldwell-Luc approach

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