The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, Patient Education Site

How is adrenal surgery performed?

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Overview

Prior to having adrenal surgery, your doctor will ensure that you have been properly prepared. You should discuss all of your medical problems with your surgeon during your consultation visit. Specific blood work, additional tests or consultation with physicians in a number of specialties may be required depending on your medical problems. In addition, if your adrenal gland is producing an excess of one or more hormones you may need to be on specific medications before, during and/or after your surgery. All adrenalectomies are performed under general anesthesia and most often require at least an overnight stay in the hospital.

There are a number of types of operation to remove the adrenal gland. The appropriate approach will ultimately be determined by: 1) tumor size, 2) patient characteristics (i.e. body size and shape, medical conditions, previous operations, etc), 3) the experience and expertise of the surgeon. The two main types of adrenalectomyAdrenalectomy - an operation to remove the adrenal gland are open and laparoscopic adrenalectomy. Open adrenalectomy uses a large incision (usually beneath the ribcage). The laparoscopic or minimally invasive approaches use multiple small incisions and a camera to remove the adrenal gland. The laparoscopic technique allows for shorter hospital stays, decreased blood loss, less post-operative pain and quicker recovery and has become the standard approach for adrenalectomy in most patients. 20-23 However, for very large tumors and for tumors with a high risk of cancer, the open approach is still preferred. For both open and laparoscopic adrenalectomy, there are a number of different techniques and variations. In general, there is no "best" technique and which approach is used depends on the experience of your surgeon. For this reason, the most important thing is to find an experienced surgeon. (See How do I find an experienced surgeon?)

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