Background: Carotid-cavernous fistula (CCF) is a shunt between the carotid artery and the cavernous sinus. Traumatic CCFs are diagnosed in 0.2% of head traumas being only 4.6% of the pediatric population. Classified by Barrow in 1985, type A CCF is the most frequent, occurring in 75% of cases. Type A is characterized by direct and high-flow CCF that generally can occur as a result of traumatic injury or rupture of an intracavernous aneurysm.
Case presentation: The subject was an 8-year-old boy with penetrating trauma to his left eye. During the initial evaluation, a computed tomography (CT) scan was unremarkable, and after relief of symptoms, the patient was discharged. Seven days later, he developed grade I proptosis, conjunctival chemosis, ophthalmoplegia (III, IV, and VI cranial nerve palsies), and left-sided ptosis and mydriasis. Arteriography confirmed a post-traumatic CCF, and the patient was treated with an endovascular detachable balloon.
Conclusion: CCF should be suspected in craniofacial traumas with ocular symptoms. The presence of a skull base fracture on CT is a poor predictor of CCF associated with head trauma. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent permanent neurological deficits and unfavorable outcomes.
Keywords: Carotid-cavernous sinus fistulas; Children; Embolization; Skull base fracture; Traumatic brain injury.