Context and objective: Carotid body tumors, or chemodectomas, are the most common head and neck paragangliomas, accounting for 80% of the cases. They may present minor symptoms; however, they deserve special attention in order to achieve accurate diagnosis and adequate treatment. The objectives of this study were to show the approach towards chemodectomas and evaluate the complications of the patients treated surgically without previous embolization.
Design and setting: Retrospective study on chemodectomas followed up at the Head and Neck Surgery Service, Department of Surgery, Unicamp.
Methods: Twenty-two patients were evaluated between 1983 and 2009. The diagnosis was based on clinical findings and imaging methods. The epidemiological characteristics, lesion characteristics, diagnostic methods, treatment and complications were analyzed.
Results: The paragangliomas were classified as Shamblin I (9%), II (68.1%) and III (22.7%). Angiography, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography confirmed the diagnosis in 20 patients (90.9%). Five (22.7%) had significant bleeding during the surgery, while four (18.1%) had minor bleeding. Four patients (18.1%) developed neurological sequelae. Seven (31.8%) needed ligatures of the external carotid artery. Three patients (13.6%) underwent carotid bulb resection. The postoperative follow-up ranged from 3 months to 14 years without recurrences or mortality.
Conclusions: In our experience and in accordance with the literature, significant bleeding and neurological sequelae may occur in chemodectoma cases, particularly in Shamblin III patients. The complications from treatment without previous embolization were similar to data in the literature data, from cases in which this procedure was applied prior to surgery.