Diagnosing and Treating a Carotid Body Tumor

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).

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This Is Your Brain: Carotid Body Tumors, with Dr. Philip E. Stieg

This Is Your Brain: Carotid Body Tumors
Dr. Stieg explains what it means to have one, and what the treatment options are

Our Care Team

  • Chair and Neurosurgeon-in-Chief
  • Margaret and Robert J. Hariri, MD ’87, PhD ’87 Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: 212-746-4684
  • Professor of Radiology in Neurological Surgery
Phone: 212-746-4998
  • Director of Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventional Neuroradiology
  • Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery
  • Fellowship Director, Endovascular Neurosurgery
Phone: 212-746-5149
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery (Brooklyn and Manhattan)
Phone: 212-746-2821 (Manhattan); 718-780-3070 (Brooklyn)

Reviewed by Justin Schwarz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: March 2024

Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787