Objectives. Carotid Body Tumor (CBT) is a rare lesion of the neuroendocrine system but it is the most common form of head and neck paraganglioma (PGL). Our objective is to discuss the optimal management of these lesions to provide the best outcome of patients treated by surgical resection.
Patients and Methods. A retrospective evaluation was obtained by review of the records of 20 patients with 26 CBT treated at our institution between 2000 and 2012. Primary tumor characteristics, diagnostic protocols, surgical treatment, short and long-term outcomes were collected and analyzed.
Results. A total of 26 CBTs resections were performed on 20 patients; the age range was 21-89 years. There was a female prevalence (14 women-80% and 6 men-20%). Familial cases occurred in 6 patients (30%); of these, 3 patients had bilateral lesions and 1 patient multiple paragangliomas. In all cases no lymph node metastasis was found. All lesions were grouped into three groups according to the latero-lateral diameter: Group I < 3 cm; Group II 3<>5cm; Group III >5cm. All patients were managed by surgical resection of the CBT. There were no operative deaths. Overall we found transitory neurological impairment in 15,3% and permanent neurological deficit in 7,6% of cases. No complications occurred in all resections of Group I tumors. In Group II only 1 resection was followed by dysphonia by recurrent nerve palsy (after vagal nerve en-bloc resection). In Group III only 1 resection was followed by permanent vagus nerve palsy.
Conclusions. Surgical removal of the tumor is the only treatment that can ensure a complete eradication of the disease. Family screening is of great importance in patients with hereditary forms. Careful preoperative planning of surgical procedure by integrated diagnostic imaging and a full mastery of the surgical technique can minimize the risk of the most common postoperative complications. Lifelong follow-up is mandatory to make early diagnosis of recurrent disease.