What is Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Cavernous sinus thrombosis (CST) is a potentially life-threatening medical condition involving a blood clot in the cavernous sinus, which is a cavity in the head located at the bottom of the brain. This condition usually arises as a rare complication of infections in locations like the ears, face, and spinal dura and it can potentially cause strokes, vision loss, and other medical complications. Early treatment can improve the prognosis significantly and there are steps available to prevent the development of this condition and to address it before it becomes fatal.

Situated between the temporal and sphenoid bones, the cavernous sinus provides a pathway for a major blood vessel, as well as the third, fourth, and sixth cranial nerves along with part of the fifth cranial nerve. When a blood clot forms inside, it can put pressure on the vessels and nerves in this structure, causing complications for the patient. With such a dense concentration of important nerves and vessels, the cavernous sinus is a very important part of the skull structure, and pressure inside can cause a range of neurological issues


People usually develop cavernous sinus thrombosis as a result of severe untreated infections in and around the skull. When antibiotics are provided promptly to address infections, the risks of developing this complication are very rare. Trauma can also be a potential cause. Symptoms of cavernous sinus thrombosis include swollen and drooping eyelids, difficulty moving the eyes, vision loss, pain, and fever. The condition can create an abscess in the brain, in addition to causing stroke, blindness, and pituitary insufficiency. In some patients, it may lead to death.

People with sinus and ear infections or dental problems should seek treatment promptly and complete the course of treatment as directed to reduce the risk of complications like cavernous sinus thrombosis. While this complication is rare, it can present serious medical problems for the patient. Signs of dural and subdural infections should also be addressed properly to minimize complications and reduce the risk of permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.

If cavernous sinus thrombosis develops, medications can be provided to treat the causative agent, and the patient can be provided with supportive care. Patients will be evaluated for early signs of stroke and other medical issues related to this disorder. Surgical drainage is also a treatment option in some cases. Treatment can involve a neurologist along with ear, nose, and throat doctor to address the underlying cause.


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