Adrenalectomy is the removal of one or both adrenal glands. There is one adrenal gland on top of each kidney. The adrenal glands make several hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone, and sex steroids. The adrenal glands also make adrenaline and noradrenaline in small amounts.
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Your adrenal gland may be removed if you have any of the following:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor will likely do some or all of the following:
Let your doctor know which medications you are taking. You may be asked to stop taking or adjust the dose of certain medications.
In the days leading up to your procedure:
Your doctors may need to admit you to the hospital before your planned procedure if your blood pressure has not been well-controlled with medication. This will allow more aggressive treatment to stabilize your blood pressure. It will also ensure that you have enough fluid in your body to prevent blood pressure problems after the surgery is done.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
You will likely be given IV fluids, antibiotics, and medications that depend on the condition that is being treated.
Large masses are usually removed from the front of your abdomen. This is done so that the mass can be easily removed. The rest of your abdomen can also be examined.
An incision will be made just under your rib cage or in your abdomen. The adrenal gland will be carefully separated from the kidney. The gland will then be removed through the incision. The incision will be closed with either stitches or staples. It will be covered with a sterile dressing.
The doctor may choose to place a tiny, flexible tube into the area where the gland was removed. This tube will drain any fluids that may build up after surgery. It will be removed within one week after your operation.
The adrenal gland(s) will be sent to a lab to be examined. You will be sent to a recovery room. There, you will be monitored for any reactions to the surgery or anesthesia.
1½ hours-3½ hours
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
The staff will monitor your breathing, pulse, and temperature. You may also need:
Recovery time may be as long as 4-6 weeks. To help ensure a smooth recovery:
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Urology Care Foundation
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Urological Association
Kidney Foundation of Canada: British Columbia Branch
Agha A, von Breitenbuch P, et al. Retroperitonenscopic adrenalectomy: lateral versus dorsal approach. J Surg Oncol. 2008;97:90-93.
Gallagher SF, Wahi M, et al. Trends in adrenalectomy rates, indications, and physician volume: A statewide analysis of 1,816 adreanlectomies. Surgery. 2007;142:1011-1021.
Hanssen WE, Kuhry E, et al. Safety and efficacy of endoscopic retroperitoneal adrenalectomy. Br J Surg. 2006;93:715-719.
Jossart GH, Burpee SE, et al. Surgery of the adrenal glands. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2000;29:57-68.
Munver R, Del Pizzo JJ, et al. Adrenal-preserving minimally invasive surgery: The role of laparoscopic partial adrenalectomy, cryosurgery, and radiofrequency ablation of the adrenal gland. Curr Urol Rep. 2003;4:87-92.
Pamaby CN. The role of laparoscopic adrenalectomy for adrenal tumours of 6 cm or greater. Surg Endosc. 2008;22:617-621.
Thompson SK, Hayman AV, et al. Improved quality of life after bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy for Cushing’s disease: A 10-year experience. Ann Surg. 2007;245:790-794.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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