Transverse sinus thrombosis means there is a blood clot in your brain. It’s considered a rare form of stroke and requires immediate medical attention at the hospital.

Cerebral sinus venous thrombosis (CSVT), which can include transverse sinus thrombosis, affects only 3 to 4 individuals in every million in developed countries like the United States.

It’s unlikely that this condition will affect you or someone you know. It’s potentially life threatening for anyone who experiences it.

Knowing the potential risk factors for this condition and what symptoms to watch for are important for early detection and treatment.

Do not be confused by the word “sinus,” as CSVT has nothing to do with the sinus cavities on your face.

CSVT refers to a blood clot in one of the brain’s large veins. Transverse sinus thrombosis refers a bit more specifically to a blood clot that develops in the brain’s transverse sinus.

The transverse sinus is one of the dural venous sinuses that’s located in the back of the cranium. The dural venous sinuses help drain blood and cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to the vascular system.

As mentioned, transverse sinus thrombosis means that a blood clot has formed in these veins. This clot prevents blood from flowing out of the brain, which leads to a blood flow backup and increased blood pressure in the blood vessels right before the clot.

This pressure can lead to swelling in parts of the brain. It can damage brain tissue leading to a stroke. It can also cause blood cells to break and leak blood into the brain tissue resulting in a hemorrhage that can further damage brain tissue.

What is thrombosis?

Transverse sinus thrombosis is frequently referred to more broadly as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) or cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT).

The final word in all these titles — “thrombosis” — is the medical term for a blood clot forming in a blood vessel and reducing the amount of blood flowing through the blood vessel. While thrombosis is comparable in many ways to an embolism, the two medical situations are separate conditions.

You can learn more about those differences here.

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CVST is considered a rare form of stroke. It represents only 0.5% to 2% of all strokes.

If you’d like to learn more about stroke symptoms, causes, and treatment, you can read more here.

CVST is a potentially life threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. CVST effects can range from headaches to coma or death.

A completely functional recovery is reported in about 75% of cases. But 15% of individuals with CVST die or need dependent care after this condition.

Transverse sinus thrombosis can occur in adults and children. It can even happen to newborns and babies in the womb.

In particular, women and young adults (those with a mean age of 33) are more likely to experience CVST, according to research.

Many factors can cause CVST. Examples include:

  • pregnancy
  • hormonal birth control
  • trauma
  • infection
  • thrombophilia, an inherited condition that makes blood clot easily

Some CVST risk factors in children include:

CVST risk factors in adults include:

  • pregnancy or the first few weeks postpartum
  • blood clotting issues
  • obesity
  • cancer
  • low blood pressure in the brain
  • inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Some potential CVST symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • seizure(s)
  • blurred vision
  • loss of control over part of the body
  • fainting or loss of conscious
  • coma

To diagnose CVST, your doctor will request your medical history and perform a physical exam. If you’re unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate, family and friends can answer questions about your medical history as well as when symptoms may have appeared.

In addition to information about symptoms and your medical history, medical imaging of the brain that shows blood flow in the brain is typically necessary for a final diagnosis. Imaging tests that may be used include:

Your doctor may also order diagnostic blood tests to check for a clotting disorder. These can be used to help determine how likely you are to have excessive bleeding or develop clots now and in the future.

Treatment for transverse sinus thrombosis should begin immediately in the hospital and can include:

  • surgery
  • anticoagulants to prevent blood clotting
  • antiseizure medication if a seizure has occurred
  • antibiotics if there’s an infection

Individuals who experience transverse sinus thrombosis will require monitoring of the pressure inside their head, continued monitoring of their brain activity, and potentially speech rehabilitation or physical therapy. Measuring vision and any changes to it may also be necessary.

Can you prevent this?

Living a health-promoting lifestyle can help prevent thrombosis. This includes:

  • eating a nutritious diet
  • exercising regularly
  • avoiding cigarette smoke
  • managing chronic conditions like diabetes
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Depending on what caused your CVST, you may require medication for several months to a year, or you may require long-term medication treatment. It’s important to follow the medication directions and your doctor’s recommendations to help prevent CVST from happening again.

Transverse sinus thrombosis means there’s a blood clot in the brain’s sinuses. Although this is a rare medical condition, it is an incredibly serious one and is considered a form of stroke.

If you or someone you know shows signs of transverse sinus thrombosis, it’s important to seek emergency medical help as soon as possible.