We conducted a retrospective study of the long-term functional results of surgery for head and neck paragangliomas. Our study population was made up of 9 patients—4 men and 5 women, aged 22 to 59 years (mean: 46.6; median: 51)—who had undergone surgical excision of a head and neck paraganglioma from January 2002 through December 2006 in the ENT Department at Pugliese-Ciaccio Hospital in Catanzaro, Italy. Of the 9 paragangliomas, 4 were carotid body tumors, 2 were glomus tympanicum tumors, and 3 were glomus vagale tumors. None of the cases was bilateral or hereditary. Complete tumor resection was achieved in 8 patients; in the remaining patient, a small amount of intradural residual vagus nerve paraganglioma had to be left in situ. The internal carotid artery was preserved in all 4 resections of carotid body tumors. There was only 1 case of postoperative lower cranial nerve deficits, which occurred in a patient with a carotid body tumor. Follow-up ranged from 12 to 53 months (mean: 37.2; median: 36), and no recurrences were documented. Our small sample showed that surgical treatment of head and neck paragangliomas provided excellent tumor control with low postoperative morbidity, even in patients with large tumors. A wait-and-scan policy may be more appropriate for patients at an advanced age or who are otherwise at high surgical risk, as well as for those whose tumors have recurred following radiotherapy.
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