Nonfunctional paragangliomas are slow-growing, typically benign tumors that arise from the extra-adrenal paraganglion of the autonomic nervous system. They are identified and characterized with the use of computed tomography and other imaging methods; for definitive diagnosis, histopathologic evaluation is crucial. Surgical resection is the treatment of choice, and results of postoperative biochemical testing can reveal recurrence. Because of this lesion's familial association, genetic testing is suggested.
We report the case of an 81-year-old woman who presented with neck pain, intermittent palpitations, hypertension, and dyspnea. Contrast-enhanced computed tomography of the chest revealed a multilobular, high-density lesion between the aorta and the pulmonary artery in the superior mediastinum. The patient's 24-hour urinary vanillylmandelic acid levels were not elevated, which suggested a nonfunctional tumor. Mediastinal exploration revealed a large, vascular, irregular, consistently firm mass that adhered to the aortic arch. Upon histopathologic analysis after complete resection, the mass was determined to be a paraganglioma with a low index of mitosis. The patient had postoperative respiratory insufficiency that necessitated tracheostomy, but she recovered well after rehabilitation.
In addition to reporting our patient's case, we discuss the nature, diagnosis, and treatment of paragangliomas.