Background: Carotid-cavernous fistulas (CCFs) are commonly misdiagnosed on computed tomography angiography (CTA). Purpose: This study sought to identify the most sensitive and specific imaging features of CCFs on CTA. Material and Methods: A retrospective review identified 18 consecutive patients suspected of having a CCF on CTA and subsequently underwent digital subtraction angiography (DSA). Two blinded reviewers assessed multiple findings on CTA: cavernous sinus asymmetry/enlargement; arterial-phase contrast in the cavernous sinus; proptosis; pre- or post-septal orbital edema; and dilated regional vasculature. Each was graded as positive, possible, and negative; “possible” was counted as positive. A third blinded reviewer served as a tiebreaker. Results: Of 18 patients, nine were true-positive and nine were false-positive. Superior ophthalmic vein early enhancement and dilatation had 100.0% sensitivity (95% confidence interval [CI] 40.0–100.0) and 77.8% specificity (95% CI 44.4–100.0); arterial-phase contrast in the cavernous sinus had 88.9% sensitivity (95% CI 44.4–100.0) and 66.7% specificity (95% CI 18.5–90.1); peri-orbital edema had 88.9% sensitivity (95% CI 35.5–100.0) and 77.8% specificity (95% CI 22.2–100.0). The most specific markers of CCF were superior petrosal sinus and inferior ophthalmic vein dilatation/enhancement (100.0%, 95% CI 88.8–100.0 and 88.9%, 95% CI 44.4–100.0, respectively); the specificity of asymmetric cavernous enlargement was 44.4% (95% CI 11.1–77.7). Conclusions: Among patients in whom a CCF is suspected on CTA, superior ophthalmic vein dilatation/enhancement and arterial-phase contrast within the cavernous sinus are the most sensitive findings. Asymmetric cavernous sinus enlargement has poor specificity and may result in false-positive diagnoses of CCFs. False positive cases were less likely to have an optimally timed contrast bolus.
- Carotid-cavernous fistula
- computed tomography angiography
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging