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Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2001 Jan;110(1):36-40.

Malignant carotid body tumors: report of three cases.

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Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery Service, Social Security Hospital, Quito, Ecuador.


The aim of the current report was to describe 3 cases of malignant carotid body tumor (CBT) and to review the literature. My clinical records of 87 CBTs in 81 patients (6 bilateral) were reviewed, 79 of which were operated on. Three malignant cases were found. The first was in a 40-year-old man who presented with pulmonary metastases 6 years after resection of a CBT. He was treated with chemotherapy and interferon, but died with disseminated disease 2 years later. The second case was in a 56-year-old woman who had a 5-cm, fixed, hard mass in the upper aspect of the neck and a paralysis of the left vocal cord. This lesion was completely resected, and a shunt and reconstruction with a saphenous vein graft were performed. Pathology revealed a malignant chemodectoma with invasion to 2 of the 5 lymph nodes removed. Radiotherapy (50 Gy) was given after the operation. She is well and free of disease 68 months after the resection. The third case was in a 61-year-old woman who presented with an 8-cm nontender, hard, immobile mass in the left upper neck that displaced the left wall of the oropharynx toward the midline. A carotid arteriogram showed a CBT. On computed tomography, the tumor extended to the infratemporal fossa with no bone involvement. The lesion was embolized with a 40% reduction in vascularity. At surgical exploration, the tumor involved the sternocleidomastoid muscle and the lymph nodes at levels II and III, and the internal carotid artery could not be dissected free at the skull base, so only a partial resection was performed. This patient was lost to follow-up. These 3 cases are in agreement with the literature. Locoregional control is usually obtained with complete primary tumor resection and lymphadenectomy and eventual radiotherapy. Surgery with radiotherapy seems to be effective for isolated metastases. Current multidisciplinary treatments have been unsuccessful in controlling disseminated disease.

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