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Adrenalectomy

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.

Adrenalectomy can be performed in two ways. The type of surgery you undergo depends on the problem being treated.

  • With open surgery, the surgeon makes one large surgical cut to remove the gland.
  • With the laparoscopic technique, several small cuts are made.

The surgeon will discuss which approach is better for you.

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

After the adrenal gland is removed, it is sent to a pathologist for examination under a microscope.

Alternative Names

Adrenal gland removal; Removal of adrenal glands

Why the Procedure Is Performed

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.

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 )

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse:

  • If you could be pregnant
  • What drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription

During the days before the surgery:

  • You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and other drugs like these.
  • Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of the surgery.
  • Do not smoke. This will help you recover more quickly.

On the day of the surgery:

  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you what you can drink or eat the night before and the day of the surgery.
  • Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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.

Most patients who undergo laparoscopic adrenalectomy have a shorter hospital stay, less pain, and faster recovery compared to the open procedure.

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

References

Yeh MW, Duh QY. The adrenal glands. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 41.

Updated: 1/29/2013

John A. Daller, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Chester, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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