The cavernous sinus is one of the several cerebral veins and cavernous sinus thrombosis is a specific type of cerebral venous (sinus) thrombosis. See that article for a discussion of that specific clinical entity.
- Occlusion of venous sinus (most commonly superior sagittal and lateral sinuses) by thrombus
- No precise prevalence or incidence established due to rarity of condition. However the disease is more prevalent in patients with thrombilia, oral contraceptive use, and during pregnancy.
- Median Age ~ 37 years
- Female:Male ratio 3:1
- Local infections (otitis media, sinusitis, cellulitis)
- Hypercoagulable states
- Drugs (ecstasy, androgens, OCPs)
- Compression of venous sinus (tumor, abscess)
Clinical presentation varies depending on location, acuity, and severity of thrombosis. More gradual onset of symptoms or thrombosis allows for compensatory collateral venous system to develop
Symptoms are variable and may not all be present
- Headache 74-92%
- Progressive, diffuse
- Seizures 35-50%
- Papilledema 28-45%
- Focal Neurologic sequelae (seizures, dizziness) 25-71%
Although presentation can be highly variable, neurodefecits can be correlated with the location of the occlusion
- Superior Sagital sinus - motor deficits, seizures
- Left transverse sinus - aphasia
- Cavernous sinus - ocular pain, protosis, oculomotor palsies
- Deep venous sinus -thalamic and basal ganglia related symptoms such as altered mental status
- Retropharyngeal abscess
- Intracranial Hemorrhage (ICH)
- SAH / sentinel bleed
- Acute obstructive hydrocephalus
- Space occupying lesions
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Basilar artery dissection
- Cerebral venous thrombosis
- Hypertensive emergency
- Temporal arteritis
- Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (aka Pseudotumor Cerebri)
- Acute Glaucoma
- Acute sinusitis
- Cavernous sinus thrombosis or cerebral sinus thrombosis
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- TMJ pain
- Post-lumbar puncture headache
- Analgesia abuse
- Various ocular and dental problems
- Herpes zoster ophthalmicus
- Herpes zoster oticus
- Febrile headache (e.g. pyelonephritis, nonspecific viral infection)
- Ophthalmoplegic migraine
- Superior Vena Cava Syndrome
Suspect in patients with headache, signs of increased ICP, or focal neurologic deficits, especially if any of above predisposing factors are present
- MRI and MRV are considered diagnostic study of choice
- CT venography is a reasonable alternative if there is a contraindication to MRV and may have a similar sensitivity to MRV in recent studies
- May see "Empty delta sign" dense triangle in superior sagittal sinus
- Cord sign: thrombus in the cerebral sinus may appear as a hyperattenuated foci. It is homogenous in nature and appears linear or round based on the affected sinus. This is most commonly seen in the first week. 
- Vein Sign: After two weeks, the thrombus becomes hypoattenuated. When the thrombus is located in the deep vein it is referred to as the vein sign. 
- Non contrast CT possesses insufficient sensitivity or specificity to be of diagnostic value in the setting of high clinical suspicion
- Heparin or low molecular weight heparin
- Of note, heparin initial bolus is 3000-5000U, lower than the dosing for PE/DVT
- Eventual transition to oral anticoagulation for a 3-6 month duration
- Frequent neurologic checks and clinical monitoring for increased ICP
- Neurology or neurosurgical consultation depending on institutional resources
- To a level of care capable of frequent neurologic monitoring. Inpatient, the patient should also have a evaluation for a coagulopathy.
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