Surgical removal of an adrenal gland, or adrenalectomy, is most commonly performed for a tumor located within the adrenal gland. If both adrenal glands need to be removed, then patients will need to take medications to replace the hormones that would normally be excreted by the adrenal glands. If cancer is present and has spread, other treatments may also be suggested, including chemotherapy and radiation.
In a traditional adrenalectomy, an incision is made over the abdomen or side in order to provide direct access to the adrenal gland. A laparoscopic adrenalectomy requires smaller incisions. During a laparoscopic procedure, three to four half-inch incisions are made, and surgeons use a camera for visual guidance and special instruments to remove the adrenal gland or glands. With a laparoscopic adrenalectomy, most patients go home within 24 to 72 hours and experience less postoperative discomfort and a shorter recovery time than patients who have a traditional adrenalectomy. The majority of our adrenalectomies are performed using laparoscopic methods.
Some patients may not be able to have their tumors treated surgically because of the way it is growing or if it is cancerous and has spread to other parts of the body. In these cases, the patient should work with their endocrinologist to determine the best course of treatment.