OBJECTIVE: This study was conducted to clarify the boundaries, relationships, and components of the medial wall of the cavernous sinus (CS).
METHODS: Forty CSs, examined under ×3 to ×40 magnification, were dissected from lateral to medial in a stepwise fashion to expose the medial wall. Four CSs were dissected starting from the midline to lateral.
RESULTS: The medial wall of the CS has two parts: sellar and sphenoidal. The sellar part is a thin sheet that separates the pituitary fossa from the venous spaces in the CS. This part, although thin, provided a barrier without perforations or defects in all cadaveric specimens studied. The sphenoidal part is formed by the dura lining the carotid sulcus on the body of the sphenoid bone. In all of the cadaveric specimens, the medial wall seemed to be formed by a single layer of dura that could not be separated easily into two layers as could the lateral wall. The intracavernous carotid was determined to be in direct contact with the pituitary gland, being separated from it by only the thin sellar part of the medial wall in 52.5% of cases. In 39 of 40 CSs, the venous plexus and spaces in the CS extended into the narrow space between the intracavernous carotid and the dura lining the carotid sulcus, which forms the sphenoidal part of the medial wall. The lateral surface of the pituitary gland was divided axially into superior, middle and inferior thirds. The intracavernous carotid coursed lateral to some part of all the superior, middle, and inferior thirds in 27.5% of the CSs, along the inferior and middle thirds in 32.5%, along only the inferior third in 35%, and below the level of the gland and sellar floor in 5%. In 18 of the 40 CSs, the pituitary gland displaced the sellar part of the medial wall laterally and rested against the intracavernous carotid, and in 6 there was a tongue-like lateral protrusion of the gland that extended around a portion of the wall of the intracavernous carotid. No defects were observed in the sellar part of the medial wall, even in the presence of these protrusions.
CONCLUSION: The CS has an identifiable medial wall that separates the CS from the sella and capsule of the pituitary gland. The medial wall has two segments, sellar and sphenoidal, and is formed by just one layer of dura that cannot be separated into two layers as can the lateral wall of the CS. In this study, the relationships between the medial wall and adjacent structures demonstrated a marked variability.