Carotid Body Tumors: Symptoms, Treatment


Carotid body tumor, also called chemodectoma and paraganglioma, is a type of benign tumor with a neuroectodermal origin. It is situated in the upper neck where the carotid artery and branches transport blood into the brain.

Usually, carotid body tumors are not life-threatening, although they could rapidly grow and press on blood vessels and nerves close by, leading to damage to those structures. It is estimated that the malignancy rate is to 2 – 25%.


The definite cause of carotid body tumor is unknown. Men and women are equally affected. Middle-aged and older individuals are at higher risk than individuals from other age groups. Some experts believe that mutation in certain genes can put some people at higher risk for developing the disease, but this theory is not well proved yet.


In the early phase, a carotid body tumor may not be present with symptoms, but a painless mass can be felt on the side of the neck that grows slowly. As the tumor gets bigger over the years, signs and symptoms will begin to occur. They include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid beating of the heart
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Falling eyelid
  • Harshness of voice
  • Sweaty skin
  • Numbness in the tongue
  • Throat pain
  • An abnormal sound of blood heard through a stethoscope
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain or weakness in the shoulders


To diagnose carotid body tumor, your doctor will closely examine your head and neck to check for typical signs of the condition. Tests that can help confirm the diagnosis include:

  • Doppler ultrasound

This is a noninvasive test that uses a special tool to send sound waves inside your body to create pictures.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This test uses a large magnet and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body.

  • Computed Tomography (CT scan)

This is a special type of X-ray to show pictures of your blood vessels on the computer screen.

  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

An MRI checks for problems with your blood vessels by showing accurate images.


Treatment options for carotid body tumor are tailored for patients based on the severity and symptoms of the condition. In most cases, the tumors can grow quickly and become large. Because of this, the best treatment is often surgery to remove the tumor. Useful surgical treatment for carotid body tumors are:

  • Transcatheter Embolization

This is a procedure to block the blood supply to the tumor. It is done two or three days before surgery. The doctor will insert a catheter through your groin artery into the blood vessels that feed blood to the tumor. Then, medication and/or a blocking device, such as foam, plastic, metal coil, or glue is used to stop the blood flow to the tumor.

  • Surgical Removal

Most times, carotid body tumor can be removed without repairing or removing part of the carotid artery. If the artery does need to be repaired, it may be fixed with a simple suture repair. Sometimes, a more complicated repair is needed, such as creating a patch over a hole made during the tumor removal or replacing a section of the artery with a bypass graft.

In rare cases, radiation therapy is used to control or kill malignant cells in the body.

Keyword: carotid body tumor; chemodectoma; paraganglioma.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.