The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, Patient Education Site

How is adrenal surgery performed?

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What is the recovery like?

A number of options are available for controlling pain after surgery. Patients that have had laparoscopic surgery have less pain post-operatively and can usually be managed with non-narcotic pain medications (such as acetaminophen [Tylenol] and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication [ibuprofen]). For breakthrough pain, narcotics in pill form (such as codeine) may be used when necessary. Patients that have had open adrenal surgery have significantly more pain after surgery and require better pain control methods. Epidurals may be used for the first few days post-operatively. Intravenous narcotics (such as morphine or fentanyl) are typically used. Often these intravenous narcotics are given via a patient controlled anesthesia (PCA) delivery system. This system is an IV pump with a button that the patient can push to get pain medication when needed. As the patient is able to eat and the pain is under generally good control, intravenous medications will be changed to oral pain medications.

After laparoscopic adrenalectomyAdrenalectomy - an operation to remove the adrenal gland, patients may be discharged from the hospital as early as the day after surgery for those having a laparoscopic procedure. Patients are usually able to eat the night of surgery. The overall recovery may take up to 2-4 weeks. On the other hand, after open adrenalectomy, the hospital stay may be 5 days to 2 weeks and oral intake (eating/drinking) may be delayed for 2 to 3 days. The overall recovery time may be significantly slower. Your surgeon will advise you on the appropriate time to return to normal activities. Patients with a larger incision will need to avoid heavy lifting (> 10 lbs) for a month to avoid hernia formation at the incision. Patients may shower shortly after surgery, but should avoid bathing (submerging the incision[s] in water) for three weeks. Typically, you will be asked to do no heavy lifting or vigorous activity for at least 4 weeks.

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