Cavernous sinus

The cavernous sinus (CS) is one of the paired dural venous sinuses

Gross anatomy

The cavernous sinus is located on either side of the pituitary fossa and body of the sphenoid bone between the endosteal and meningeal layers of the dura. The normal lateral wall should be either straight or concave. 

  • roof: fold of dura mater attached to the anterior and middle clinoid processes
  • anterior wall: medial end of the superior orbital fissure
  • posterior wall: petrous apex
  • medial wall: endosteum overlying the body of the sphenoid bone
  • lateral wall: dura mater from the ridge of the roof to the floor of the middle cranial fossa
  • floor: endosteum overlying the base of the greater wing of the sphenoid bone
Vascular connections

It receives venous blood from:

Drainage of the cavernous sinus is via:

Depending on relative pressures the superior ophthalmic veins either drain to or from the cavernous sinus.

Additionally, the cavernous sinuses connect to each other via the intercavernous sinuses.


The cavernous sinus transmits multiple cranial nerves to the superior orbital fissure and foramen rotundum. These are:

These can be remembered with the mnemonic OTOM CAT.


The ICA enters the posterior inferior aspect of the sinus and bends upon itself as the carotid siphon (cavernous segment - C4). Two branches arise from this segment: meningohypophyseal trunk and inferolateral trunk.

The artery is surrounded by a plexus of sympathetic nerves from the superior cervical ganglion.


Fatty deposits may be present within the cavernous sinus, especially in obese patients or in those who are taking corticosteroids 3.

Related pathology

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Article Information

rID: 5258
Section: Anatomy
Tag: refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Cavernous sinuses

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    Figure 1: cavernous sinus
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