A doctor who suspects a carotid body tumor from a physical exam may order a Doppler ultrasound first to see if there is a detectable tumor. A computerized tomography (CT) scan may also be used to confirm the presence of the tumor.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are excellent tools for diagnosing a carotid body tumor, as they can produce detailed images of the blood vessels as well as the tumor itself.
Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) scans are the best tools for diagnosing a carotid body tumor. An MRA uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to create detailed images of the blood vessels and the tumor. An MRA is an MRI combined with an angiogram, which allows a radiologist and neurosurgeon to examine the blood vessels as well as the tumor. CT angiograms and magnetic resonance angiograms provide excellent diagnostic views of a carotid body tumor.
Carotid body tumors may be treated with either surgery or radiation, depending on the size of the tumor and the age and health of the patient. Often, a neurosurgeon will recommend pre-operative embolization of the tumor to cut off its blood supply, making the procedure easier and decreasing the amount of blood loss during surgery (see Surgery for Carotid Body Tumors).
Reviewed by Justin Schwarz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: August 2021