Carotid Body Tumor

A carotid body tumor is also known as a carotid body paraganglioma or a chemodectoma. They are vascular tumors that begin in the external layer of the carotid artery and extend into the internal and external carotid arteries.

About 65% of all head and neck paragangliomas are carotid body tumors.

The carotid body, which originates in the neural crest, is important in the body's acute adaptation to fluctuating concentrations of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and pH. The carotid body protects the organs from hypoxic damage by releasing neurotransmitters that increase the ventilatory rate when stimulated.

There are three different types of carotid body tumors:

  • Familial
  • Hyperplastic
  • Sporadic

The most common type is the sporadic form, representing approximately 85% of carotid body tumors. The familial type is more common in younger patients. The hyperplastic form is very common in patients with chronic hypoxia and includes those patients living at a high altitude.

Carotid Body Tumor Symptoms

At first a carotid body tumor may not present any symptoms, but it can usually be felt as a slow-growing, painless mass on the side of a person’s neck. As the tumor gets bigger, over the course of several years, it may start to cause symptoms that include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • High blood pressure or heart palpitations
  • Hoarseness
  • Partial paralysis or numbness in the tongue
  • The distinct whooshing sound of blood pushing past an obstruction
  • Vision changes or a drooping eyelid
  • Weakness or pain in the shoulders

Getting Diagnosed

Our team of specialists provide thorough neurological evaluations using the latest diagnostic technology including CT angiography and 3-D angiography.

We work very closely with the departments of Neurosurgery, Interventional Neuroradiology, Neurology and Radiation Oncology, as well as the Neurocritical Care Center and Stroke Center to ensure an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment for the best outcome.

Your Path to Health and Wellness Starts Here

The Brain Aneurysm Center and Cerebrovascular Surgery and Endovascular Neurosurgery Center of Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute combines advanced technical knowledge and cutting-edge procedures for diagnosing and treating arteriovenous malformations, ruptured and non-ruptured aneurysms, carotid artery dissection and related conditions.


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The Neuroscience Institute

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