Head and Neck Paragangliomas: An Update on Evaluation and Management

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016 Apr;154(4):597-605. doi: 10.1177/0194599815627667. Epub 2016 Feb 9.


Objective: Head and neck paragangliomas are a group of slow-growing hypervascular tumors associated with the paraganglion system. The approach to evaluate and treat these lesions has evolved over the last 2 decades. While radical surgery had been the traditional approach, improvements in diagnostic imaging as well as radiation therapy techniques have led to an emphasis on observation and nonsurgical therapy in many patients. This article reviews the contemporary approach to the workup and management of head and neck paragangliomas.

Data source: Articles were identified from PubMed.

Review methods: PubMed searches with the following keywords were performed: carotid body paraganglioma management, vagal paraganglioma management, jugulotympanic paraganglioma management, imaging of head and neck paragangliomas, head and neck paraganglioma embolization, paraganglioma radiation, head and neck paraganglioma management, observation of head and neck paragangliomas, bilateral carotid body paragangliomas, and genetics of paragangliomas. Review and original research articles available in the English language and published during or after 2009 were selected on the basis of their clinical relevance and scientific strength. Certain articles published prior to 2009 were also included if they provided background information that was relevant.

Conclusions/implications for practice: Workup and treatment of head and neck paragangliomas are changing. With more now known regarding the longitudinal behavior of these tumors, observation and nonsurgical therapy are indicated in many instances. For patients where surgery is the most appropriate option, improved diagnostic and perioperative techniques are allowing patients to tolerate resection, often with reduced morbidity.

Keywords: carotid body paraganglioma; jugulare paraganglioma; paraganglioma; vagal paraganglioma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Disease Management
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Paraganglioma / diagnosis*
  • Paraganglioma / pathology
  • Paraganglioma / therapy*