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 have 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. This is medicine that keeps you asleep and pain-free.
After the adrenal gland is removed, it is sent to a pathologist for examination under a microscope.
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 of anesthesia and surgery in general include:
- Reaction to medicines
- Breathing problems
- Bleeding, blood clots, or infection
Risks of this surgery include:
- Damage to nearby organs in the body
- Wound that breaks open or bulging tissue through the incision (incisional hernia)
Before the Procedure
Tell your surgeon or nurse:
- If you are or could be pregnant
- What medicines you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription
During the days before surgery:
- You may be asked to stop taking medicines that make it hard for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
- Ask your surgeon which drugs you should still take on the day of the surgery.
If you smoke, try to stop. Smoking slows recovery and increases the risk of problems. Ask your health care provider for help quitting.
On the day of surgery:
- Follow instructions about when to stop eating and drinking.
- Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
- Arrive at the hospital on time.
As with any operation, there will be discomfort after surgery.
- Your provider will prescribe pain medicines.
- You may need stool softeners to avoid constipation.
- Your surgeon will give you instructions about limiting your activities.
Most people who undergo the laparoscopic surgery have a shorter hospital stay, less pain, and faster recovery compared to the open surgery.
Adrenal gland removal; Removal of adrenal glands
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.
Update Date 3/13/2015
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.