Translational Surgery

: 2019  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 32--34

An aneurysm-like entity inside a giant carotid body tumor reaching lateral skull base

Hui Zhang1, Fangda Li2, Yuehong Zheng2,  
1 Department of Vascular Surgery, Peking Union Medical College Hospital; School of Medicine, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
2 Department of Vascular Surgery, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing, China

Correspondence Address:
Yuehong Zheng
Department of Vascular Surgery, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Shuaifuyuan #1, Dongcheng, Beijing 100730


The successful resection of giant carotid body tumors (CBTs) with full protection of cranial nerve is challenging. Meanwhile, entities with fresh blood inside a CBT were commonly considered liquefactive necrosis preoperatively. However, we reported a case with an aneurysm-like entity inside the CBT instead. A patient with lump on the right neck complained of feeling dizzy. She was then reported with a giant CBT reaching lateral skull base. Preoperative imaging revealed a low-density entity inside the tumor, which was considered as liquefaction necrosis. However, during surgery, the low-density area was observed pulsing with fresh blood. Under the collaboration of vascular surgeons and otolaryngologists, the tumor was resected uneventfully. We reported a case of giant CBT over 10 cm and successful resection with no major facial nerve deficit. Moreover, an aneurysm-like entity inside the tumor was observed during the surgery, which was not reported before.

How to cite this article:
Zhang H, Li F, Zheng Y. An aneurysm-like entity inside a giant carotid body tumor reaching lateral skull base.Transl Surg 2019;4:32-34

How to cite this URL:
Zhang H, Li F, Zheng Y. An aneurysm-like entity inside a giant carotid body tumor reaching lateral skull base. Transl Surg [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Jul 2 ];4:32-34
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Full Text


Carotid body tumor (CBT) is a very rare hypervascular tumor in the head-and-neck region, with an incidence lower than 0.03%. Although with relatively high risk, surgical removal is considered the main treatment of CBT. Common complications include hemorrhage, cranial nerves deficit, and risk of stroke with an overall mortality rate of 17.85%.[1] Tumors over 4 cm that needs a vascular reconstruction incurred a higher risk of cranial nerve injury.[1],[2] Here, we reported a case of giant CBT over 10 cm and successful resection with no major facial nerve deficit. Meanwhile, a very rare aneurysm-like entity inside the tumor was observed during the surgery, which was not reported in any previous publications.

 Case Report

A 49-year-old female found her right neck swelling 5 years ago. The lump grew to egg size within 3 years. During the past 5 years, she complained of feeling dizzy occasionally, with no further complaints as nausea, vomiting, or blurred vision. Digital subtraction angiography at local hospital revealed a tumor invading the right carotid body. Guglielmi detachable coils were implanted into her right carotid artery to reduce the size of the tumor [Figure 1]c. She was then admitted to our hospital for further treatment. Computed tomography (CT) revealed a mass of 8.6 cm × 5.6 cm × 8.8 cm [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b, and an entity appeared as nonenhancing soft-tissue opacity with heterogeneous density [[Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b, red arrow] was observed inside the mass. The position of the tumor was relatively high and invaded lateral skull base [Figure 1]d. The carotid bifuracation and the platysma myoide were all invaded. The patient was diagnosed with right CBT, which could only be treated by surgical resection.{Figure 1}

The surgery was conducted by a team of vascular surgeons and otolaryngologists. After general anesthesia and incision, the internal jugular vein and the internal carotid artery (ICA) distal to the tumor were separated. External auditory canal was cut [Figure 2]d, white arrow] and put back at the end of the surgery. Mastoid and styloid were then partially removed with driller under the microscope to expose ICA at superior border of the tumor body. After removal of mastoid and styloid, facial canal was opened and cranial nerve VII (facial nerve) was well protected afterward [Figure 2]a and [Figure 2]c. The trunk of facial nerve and its cervicofacial branch were isolated with a resection of the posterior part of the parotid gland, and the segment of the VII cranial nerve [arrow in [Figure 2]c crossing the operating field was not mobilized to avoid permanent postoperative paralysis. A hard, hypervascular tumor (10 cm × 15 cm) was visualized extending from under the carotid bifuracation to the base of skull [Figure 2]b. A 15-cm long autologous right saphenous vein graft was obtained and anastomosed to the carotid artery through “prereconstruction” approach [Figure 2]d.[3] It is worth mentioning that the low-density area previously showed on computed tomography angiography (CTA) was observed pulsing during removal. The entity was occasionally cut and instead of necrosis expected, fresh blood squirted out. Vascular shunt was immediately used to reduce blood loss. Operative blood loss was <3000 mL and mainly from the aneurysm-like entity.{Figure 2}

Histologic analysis showed findings typical of a carotid body paraganglioma. The patient was in good condition postoperatively, with a slight XII cranial nerve deficit and temporary hoarseness, which both remitted after 3 months. No recurrence or any complications were noted at the 12-month follow-up.


As a very rare kind of tumor with high operative risk, the surgical resection of CBT remains a big challenge to vascular surgeons.[4],[5] This case brought us several questions that worth further studying.

First, we found that the low-density entity on CTA was not liquefactive necrosis of tumor as expected, but an aneurysm-like entity with fresh blood and pulsing like artery. To the best of our knowledge, this phenomenon was not reported in previous publications. It may indicate that the blood flow inside the tumor body distributed unevenly. Mutlu and Ogul reported a rare case of external carotid artery and coexisting CBT.[6] Further study is needed to explore the mechanism of CBT and possible connection between CBT and aneurysms. To safely remove a giant CBT with less blood loss is both meaningful and challenging. To achieve this goal, it is particularly important to precisely evaluate the condition of tumor as well as blood supply inside and around the tumor. To achieve a better preoperative evaluation of tumors, imaging techniques in addition to CT may be applicable.[7],[8]

Second, the tumor body was not only huge but also reached the skull base, making it hard to separate the ICA and protect cranial nerves, as well as anastomose ICA afterward. The standard procedure for resection of large Shamblin III CBTs is to reconstruct the ICA with autologous or artificial saphenous vein after total removal of tumor body.[9] In this case, we conducted the surgery with “prereconstruction” technique.[3] The ICA was reconstructed in advance of excising the tumors; to farthest maintain intraoperative cerebral flow by reducing clamping time. One of the most delicate parts of this surgery was to expose ICA at superior border of the tumor body. In this case, the tumor body reached the lateral skull base, which made it impractical to separate and reconstruct the artery due to the hard bone structure and the large amount of blood vessels and nerves it involved. With the help of otolaryngologist, we were able to expose the distal ICA inside the skull completely with full protection of nerves and blood vessels.

In conclusion, we reported an aneurysm-like entity with fresh blood inside a CBT, which was considered liquefactive necrosis preoperatively. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported of aneurysm-like entity inside a CBT.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

This study was approved by the Peking Union Medical Hospital Ethical Committee. Written informed consent was provided by the patient for patient information and images to be published.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the patient has given her consent for her images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patient understand that name and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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