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Carotid Body Tumors

The role of the carotid artery is to supply blood to the front of the brain where important function such as thinking, speech, sensory, motor and personality functions take place. You have two carotid arteries, one on each side of the neck. A carotid body tumor occurs where the carotid artery branches off to smaller arteries that carry the blood to the brain. The cluster of cells around this branching area is known as the carotid body. These tumors are generally discovered as an asymptomatic, palpable neck mass. They tend to be non-life-threatening, but as they grow, they can press on the important nerves, organs and blood vessels around them. Often the cause of these relatively rare tumors is unknown, but they tend to occur in people who live at high altitudes where they get less oxygen on a regular basis.

Symptoms

Often, carotid body tumors cause no symptoms until, over several years, they enlarge enough to cause the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Numb/paralyzed tongue
  • Hoarseness
  • Vision changes/drooping eyelid
  • Weakness or pain in shoulders
  • High blood pressure/heart palpitations
  • Fainting
  • Bruit (an abnormal sound heard through a stethoscope)

Treatment Options

When, from a physical exam, a doctor suspects a carotid body tumor, the patient will be sent for diagnostic imaging tests, often an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or MRA. These tumors are treated either with surgery or radiation. If surgery is recommended, the doctor may recommend pre-operative embolization of the tumor, which cuts off its blood supply and results in less blood loss during surgery.

Previous Page Last Review Date: October 21, 2020
Carotid Body Tumors Team
Rodrigo Arrangoiz, MD, MS, FACS

Rodrigo Arrangoiz, MD, MS, FACS

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016
Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016