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Adrenalectomy

Definition

Adrenalectomy is an operation in which one or both adrenal glands are removed. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system and are located just above the kidneys.

Alternative Names

Adrenal gland removal; Removal of adrenal glands

Description

Adrenalectomy can be performed in two ways. In the "open" surgery, the surgeon makes one large surgical cut to remove the gland. With the "laparoscopic" technique, several small incisions are made. The surgeon will discuss which approach is better for you.

For the surgery, you will be placed under general anesthesia (unconscious and pain-free).

The adrenal gland is sent to a pathologist for examination under a microscope.

Indications

The adrenal gland is removed when there is known cancer or a growth (mass) that might be cancer.

Sometimes a mass in the adrenal gland is removed because it releases a hormone that can cause harmful side effects. One of the most common tumors is a pheochromocytoma. This tumor can cause very high blood pressure.

Risks

With any operation or anesthesia, there is a slight risk of:

  • Blood clots in the legs that may travel to the lungs
  • Breathing problems
  • Damage to nearby organs in the body
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Infection or bleeding
  • Reactions to medicines
  • Wound that breaks open or bulging tissue through the incision (incisional hernia)

Expectations after surgery

It is important to have the procedure done at a center that is experienced in adrenal gland removal.

Before You Have the Procedure

Your surgeon will give you instructions about your diet, including when you should stop eating and drinking. Be sure to have a complete list of your medications so that your surgeon and anesthesiologist can give you instructions about them.

Convalescence

As with any operation, there will be discomfort after surgery.

  • Your health care provider will prescribe pain medications.
  • You may need stool softeners to avoid constipation.
  • Your surgeon will give you instructions about restricting your activities.

Complete recovery from the procedure may take several weeks or longer, depending on the type of surgical cuts you have.

References

Young WF Jr. Adrenal medulla, catecholamines, and pheochromocytoma. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 246.


Review Date: 12/17/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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