Cavernous sinus

The cavernous sinuses are 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. It spans from the apex of the orbit to the apex of the petrous temporal bone. Unlike other dural venous sinuses, it is divided by numerous fibrous septa into a series of small caves, which is where its name is derived from. The normal lateral wall should be either straight or concave. 

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.


These can be remembered with the mnemonic O TOM CAT.


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


The internal carotid artery 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

Anatomy: Brain

Anatomy: Brain

Anatomy: Head and neck

Anatomy: Head and neck

Article information

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

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1a: labeled 20
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  • Case 1b: labeled 19
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  • Case 1c: labeled 46
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  • Figure 1
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