Treating cavernous sinus thrombosis 

Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a serious condition that needs to be treated in hospital. 

In most cases, you'll be treated in an intensive care unit, so you can be closely monitored.


Antibiotics are the main treatment for cavernous sinus thrombosis. Treatment will be started as soon as possible, even before tests have confirmed if a bacterial infection is responsible.

If tests later show that a bacterial infection didn't cause the condition, antibiotic treatment may be stopped.

Most people will require at least a three- to four-week course of antibiotics to ensure the infection has been fully cleared from their body. The antibiotics will be given through an intravenous drip directly connected to one of your veins.

Around 1 in 10 people will experience side effects when taking antibiotics. These are generally mild and can include diarrhoea, nausea and a skin rash.


In some cases, you may also be given a medication called heparin to help dissolve the clot and prevent further clots. Heparin is an anticoagulant, which means it makes the blood less sticky.

There are some uncertainties about using anticoagulants to treat cavernous sinus thrombosis, such as when they should be used and for how long. There's also a risk of provoking serious problems, such as excessive bleeding (haemorrhaging).

As cavernous sinus thrombosis is so rare, it's difficult to study, which means there's a lack of evidence regarding the use of anticoagulants to treat it. However, the small amount of research that does exist seems to suggest that anticoagulants can be an effective treatment for some people, and most doctors agree it should be used where appropriate. 


You may also be given steroid medication (corticosteroids). Corticosteroids can reduce inflammation and swelling in your body.

As with anticoagulant therapy, there's little evidence concerning the effectiveness of corticosteroids in treating cavernous sinus thrombosis. Nonetheless, corticosteroids are thought to be beneficial for some people.

Surgical drainage

If the symptoms of cavernous sinus thrombosis were caused by an infection spreading from a boil or sinusitis, it may be necessary to drain away pus from that site. This can be done either using a needle or during surgery.

Read more about treating abscesses.

How long does treatment last?

Several weeks of antibiotic treatment are usually necessary to ensure the infection has cleared. However, it can take a long time to recover fully, and it may be several months before you're well enough to leave hospital.

Page last reviewed: 13/05/2015

Next review due: 13/05/2017