Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis in Children: Imaging Characteristics and Clinical Outcomes

Stroke. 2015 Sep;46(9):2657-60. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.115.009437. Epub 2015 Aug 6.


Background and purpose: Cavernous sinus thrombosis (CST) is a rare life-threatening cerebrovascular disease known to cause carotid artery narrowing (CAN) and arterial ischemic stroke. The imaging features of CST and related complications have been reported in adults, but rarely in children.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of children with imaging confirmed CST from 2003 to 2014, describing presenting symptoms, imaging findings, and treatment.

Results: Ten patients with CST were identified. All had CAN and 6 of 10 developed infarcts. Of 8 patients treated with anticoagulation therapy, 3 developed new infarcts. None required discontinuation of anticoagulation therapy because of bleeding. Visual impairment secondary to infectious neuritis was common. Imaging characteristics include cavernous sinus expansion, filling defects, restricted diffusion, arterial wall enhancement, empyema, superior ophthalmic vein enlargement and thrombosis, orbital cellulitis, and pituitary inflammation. CAN resolved in 60% of cases. Outcomes were mostly good, with a modified Rankin Scale score of ≤1 for 7 of 10 patients at discharge and 1 death.

Conclusions: CAN and infarcts were common in this modest cohort of children with CST. Despite the high incidence of CAN and infarction, outcomes were often favorable. Although this is the largest cohort of childhood CST reported to date, large multicenter cohorts are needed to confirm our findings and determine the preferred therapeutic strategies for childhood CST.

Keywords: carotid arteries; cavernous sinus; cerebrovascular disorders; infection; magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Carotid Stenosis / etiology
  • Carotid Stenosis / pathology*
  • Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis / complications
  • Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis / pathology*
  • Cerebral Infarction / etiology
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies