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Cavernous sinus thrombosis

Definition

Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a blood clot in an area at the base of the brain that contains a vein, which carries blood from the brain to the heart. This area is called the cavernous sinus.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cavernous sinus thrombosis is usually caused by a bacterial infection that has spread from the sinuses, teeth, ears, eyes, nose, or skin of the face.

You are more likely to get this condition if you have an increased risk of blood clots.

Symptoms

  • Bulging eyeball, usually on one side of face
  • Cannot move the eye in a particular direction
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Headaches
  • Vision loss

Signs and tests

Tests that may be ordered include:

  • CT scan of the head
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain
  • Magnetic resonance venogram
  • Sinus x-ray

Treatment

Cavernous sinus thrombosis is treated with high-dose antibiotics given through a vein (IV).

Sometimes surgery is needed to drain the infection.

Expectations (prognosis)

Cavernous sinus thrombosis can be deadly if left untreated.

Calling your health care provider

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Bulging of your eyes
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Eye pain
  • Inability to move your eye in any particular direction
  • Vision loss

References

Nath A, Berger J. Brain abscess and parameningeal infection.In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA:Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 421.


Review Date: 3/14/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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