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Current Surgical Management of Carotid Body Tumors
Victor J Davila1, James M Chang1, William M Stone1, Richard J Fowl1, Thomas C Bower2, Michael L Hinni1, Samuel R Money1
1Mayo Clinic Arizona, Pheonix, AZ;2Mayo Clinic, Rochester, AZ

Carotid body tumors (CBT) are rare, and vascular surgeons are frequently involved in their care. Current guidelines for management are varied and may include genetic testing consisting of identification of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) gene mutations. We performed a review of the surgical management of CBT at our institution to evaluate current outcomes and genetic testing impact.
A retrospective analysis of all surgically treated carotid body tumors at our institution was performed on all patients who underwent surgical excision of a CBT from 1996 to 2015. Data was obtained regarding pre-operative demographics, intraoperative details, post-operative morbidity and long term outcomes.
199 CBT were excised from 183 patients (122 female, 66.6%). 113 patients (56.8%) presented with a neck mass and 44 patients (22.1%) presented with tenderness or neck pain. Four patients (2%) had dysphagia on presentation, and three patients (1.5%) had cranial nerve dysfunction
CT (118 patients, 59.3%) or MRI (104 patients, 52.2%) were the most commonly used imaging modalities. Ultrasound was used in the diagnosis of 55 (27.6%) tumors. 81 (40.7%) patients underwent preoperative angiography and 68 (83.9%) of these patients underwent angiographic intervention consisting of embolization and/or internal carotid artery balloon occlusion testing. Mean tumor diameter on pre-operative imaging was 3.15 cm (range 0.4-7.2 cm). There were 81 (40.7%), 77 (38.7%), and 41 (20.6%) Shamblin type 1, 2, and 3 tumors respectively.
Average operating time was 222 minutes (range 52-696 minutes). Average operative blood loss was 138 mL (range 10-2000 mL). 30 patients (15.1%) underwent arterial ligation, most commonly the external carotid artery. Arterial reconstruction with an interposition graft was required in 11 patients (5.5%) which consisted of saphenous vein (n=7), or dacron (n=4). Patch angioplasty was performed in 4 cases (2%) with bovine pericardium used in 3 (1.5%) and dacron used in 1 (0.5%). 110 patients (55%) underwent concurrent lymph node excision (415 total nodes excised) and all were found to be benign. There were no mortalities within 30 days.
37 (20.2%) patients had a family history of carotid body tumors. 18 of 19 patients (9%) had genetic testing positive for a SDH mutation. Positive genetic testing for SDH mutations had a statistically significant correlation with positive family history of CBT (p<0.0001), earlier age of presentation (p<0.0001), symptomatic presentation of CBT (p<0.0001), and post-operative complications after CBT excision (p<0.0001). Mean age at diagnosis of patients with SDH mutations was 38.8 years while patients without SDH mutations presented at a mean age of 51.3 years. In patients with SDH mutations, mean tumor diameter, average operating time, average operative blood loss, and distribution of Shamblin type 1, type 2, and type 3 lesions were not significantly different from patients without SDH mutations.
Carotid body tumors can be treated with minimal morbidity and mortality; however the subgroup of patients with positive SDH mutations may represent a variant group of younger patients with greater post-operative morbidity. Vascular surgeons should be aware of genetic testing to identify patients who may be at greater risk of operative morbidity. Concomitant lymph node excision does not appear to add value in absence of clinic suspicion for malignancy.

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