Imaging and management of head and neck paragangliomas

Eur Radiol. 2005 Jul;15(7):1310-8. doi: 10.1007/s00330-005-2743-8. Epub 2005 Apr 5.


Paragangliomas of the head and neck are highly vascular lesions originating from paraganglionic tissue located at the carotid bifurcation (carotid body tumors), along the vagus nerve (vagal paragangliomas), and in the jugular fossa and tympanic cavity (jugulotympanic paragangliomas). Diagnostic imaging can be considered in two clinical situations: (1) patients who present with clinical symptoms suggestive of a paraganglioma, and (2) individuals from families with hereditary paragangliomas. It is not only necessary to detect and characterize the lesion, but also to study the presence of multiplicity. For these purposes, MR imaging, and especially 3D TOF MRA, is the modality of choice. CT scanning is especially useful to show destruction of the temporal bone. Angiography in combination with embolization will mainly be used prior to surgical resection, but can also be used for diagnostic purposes when the diagnosis is not yet clear. Many parameters play a role in the decision to treat of which multifocality and impairment of cranial nerves are the most important. The primary therapeutic option for paragangliomas is complete excision of tumor with preservation of vital neurovascular structures. Resection however, should be balanced against a more conservative "wait and scan" policy or palliative treatments such as radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Body Tumor / diagnosis
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Embolization, Therapeutic
  • Glomus Jugulare Tumor / diagnosis
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Paraganglioma / diagnosis*
  • Paraganglioma / surgery
  • Paraganglioma / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed