Carotid Body Tumors

The carotid artery is present on both sides of the neck. The large branch of the carotid artery splits into smaller vessels that carry blood to the brain. Sometimes growth is seen in the area where the carotid artery splits off. This growth is known as carotid body tumour, also called chemodectoma or paraganglioma.

Mostly carotid body tumour is present as asymptomatic swelling in the neck region. It is identified by the doctor during an examination. It is a palpable mass that is usually painless. A carotid body tumour is a slow-growing tumour and as it increases in size it can press on the adjacent blood vessels, nerves or organs around it. This can lead to various symptoms like hoarseness, numbness in the tongue or difficulty in swallowing.
The doctor will examine the neck and head region to look for signs of a carotid body tumour. He may advise you of the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This test uses a large magnet and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
  • Ultrasound – this is a test that uses a special tool known as a transducer/wand that sends sound waves inside your body to create pictures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) – is an MRI that checks for problems with your blood vessels.
  • Computed Tomography (CT scan) – this is a special type of X-ray.

Usually, carotid body tumour does not show cancerous transformation. But as and when detected, they should be removed. Surgery is considered the best treatment option for this tumour. Rarely, radiation therapy is also used.

A multidisciplinary treatment approach is often required. Your healthcare provider will form the best treatment plan according to your condition. A surgical procedure is done to eliminate the tumour and to repair the damaged carotid artery. Transcatheter embolization and bypass graft may also be required which is performed by a vascular surgeon.

Transcatheter embolization is a procedure that helps in reducing the blood supply to the tumour. It is performed 2-3 days before surgery. In this procedure, A catheter will be guided through your groin artery into the blood vessels that feed blood to the tumour. To stop the blood flow into the tumour, we use medication and/or a blocking device, such as foam, plastic, metal coil, or glue.

Around 60% -70% of the time without repairing or removing part of the carotid artery, the tumour can be removed. If there is any need of repairing the artery, it can be done by a simple suture repair. At times, a more complicated repair is needed like a bypass graft. In this method, a new pathway for blood flow is created by using other blood vessels.

Treatment methods for carotid body tumours are typically very safe with good outcomes. However, risks are involved with all kinds of surgeries. One of the possible complications is stroke. A stroke happens in less than 2% of patients who have undergone this surgery. This makes it a rare complication. High-risk patients include those having large tumours and those who need vascular repair or replacement.

In case the nerves near the carotid artery, such as the vagus nerve, facial nerve or hypoglossal nerve that controls your tongue get affected, part of the nerve may need to be removed. This usually happens if the rumour is large. The overall risk for permanent nerve damage is less than 5%.

Surgeons at Hyderabad Vascular Centre take special precautions to decrease your risk of complications. 

The doctor and hospital that you choose for your medical care will have a direct impact on how well you do. At Hyderabad Vascular Centre we have a team of the best doctors. We provide the best treatment for carotid body tumours.