An adrenalectomy is a surgical procedure in which one or both of the adrenal glands are removed. The adrenal glands are small, triangular organs on top of the kidneys which produce and release several necessary hormones and chemicals, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, cortisone, steroids, adrenalin, also known as epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

Reasons for an Adrenalectomy

An adrenalectomy is necessary if there is an adrenal tumor. The adrenal tumor should be removed if it is suspected or confirmed to be malignant, if it is large, or if it is causing the adrenal gland to produce too great a quantity of a hormone or other substance. Because the adrenal glands are so small, they usually must be entirely removed in order to remove a tumor. Tumors of the adrenal gland may be caused by diseases of the endocrine system, such as Conn's syndrome or may result in the development of endocrine diseases, such as Cushing's syndrome.

Symptoms of Adrenal Disease

The symptoms of adrenal disease, as noted below, are extremely varied and therefore adrenal disease may be difficult to diagnose. These symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Noticeable lump in the abdomen
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the abdomen
  • Feeling of abdominal fullness
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Excess growth of facial, pubic or underarm hair
  • Premature sexualization in children
  • Inappropriate feminization or masculization
  • Anxiety or depression
  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure, also known as hypertension

These symptoms may be present for reasons not connected to the adrenal glands, often complication diagnosis. Whether the presenting symptoms are indicative of adrenal disease can only be determined by the physician. The doctor will do a full exam, a urinalysis, blood tests and diagnostic imaging, such as a CT scan or MRI, to determine whether adrenal disease is the underlying cause of the symptoms.

Procedure of Adrenalectomy

Adrenalectomy is usually performed laparoscopically under general anesthesia. Because this is a minimally invasive procedure, post-surgical pain is reduced. Painkillers are administered as necessary. Laparoscopic adrenalectomy results in only small scars and recovery time is abbreviated. The patient usually spends only one night in the hospital and is able to return to normal activities in 10 days to 2 weeks.

Risks of Adrenalectomy

Although adrenalectomy is a relatively safe procedure, there are possible complications from any surgical procedure which may include:

  • Post-surgical infection
  • Blood clots
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Stoke

Any evidence of infection, such as fever or cough, or any unusual pain in the calf or elsewhere, which may indicate the development of a blood clot, should be taken seriously and the physician should be consulted as soon as possible. The patient will most likely require follow-up care for the condition necessitating the adrenalectomy.

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