Current surgical management of carotid body tumors

Victor J. Davila, James M. Chang, William M. Stone, Richard J. Fowl, Thomas C. Bower, Michael L. Hinni, Samuel R. Money

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background Carotid body tumors (CBTs) are rare. Management guidelines may include genetic testing for succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) mutations. We performed an institutional review of the surgical management of CBT. Methods A retrospective analysis (1994-2015) of CBT excisions at our institution was performed. Data obtained included demographics, genetic testing (if performed), intraoperative details, postoperative morbidity, and long-term outcomes. Data from the first CBT excision were included in patients with bilateral tumors. Genetic testing was routinely offered in patients with a family history of CBT or multiple paragangliomas. Results A total of 183 CBTs (124 female [67.7%]) were excised. A neck mass was present in 106 patients (57.9%), 24 patients (12.1%) presented with tenderness or neck pain, and 3 (1.6%) presented with cranial nerve dysfunction. Computed tomography (57.9%) or magnetic resonance imaging (51.3%) were the most commonly used imaging modalities. Preoperative angiography was performed in 73 patients (39.8%), and 62 of them (84.5%) underwent embolization or internal carotid balloon occlusion testing, or both. Mean tumor diameter was 3.2 cm (range, 0.6-7.2 cm). There were 71 (38.8%), 75 (41%), and 37 (20.2%) Shamblin type 1, 2, and 3 tumors, respectively. Average operating time was 224 minutes (range, 52-696 minutes). Average blood loss was 143.9 mL (range, 10-2000 mL). Arterial reconstruction with an interposition graft was required in 10, and patch angioplasty was performed in four. Cranial nerve injury was permanent in 10 (5.5%), and the rate of stroke was 1% (n = 2). A total of 382 lymph nodes were excised, and all were benign. There were no deaths ≤30 days. Only one patient presented with malignant disease 2 years after CBT excision, and this patient did not undergo genetic testing. Thirty-four (18.6%) had a family history of CBT. SDH testing was performed in 18 patients, and 17 tested positive. Positive genetic testing had a correlation with earlier age at operation (P < .0001). Mean age at diagnosis of patients with SDH mutations was 38.0 years, and patients without known SDH mutations presented at a mean age of 50.3 years. In patients with SDH mutations, tumor diameter, operating time, blood loss, and distribution of Shamblin type 1, 2, and 3 lesions were not significantly different compared with the control group. Conclusions CBT can be treated with minimal morbidity and mortality; however, the subgroup of patients with positive SDH mutations may represent a variant group of younger patients. Vascular surgeons should be aware of genetic testing to identify patients and family members who should undergo additional preoperative testing and monitoring for other paragangliomas. Concomitant lymph node dissection does not appear to add value in absence of clinic suspicion for malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1703-1710
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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