Recovery After Adrenal Surgery

A number of options are available for controlling pain after surgery. Patients who have had laparoscopic surgery are expected to have less pain post-operatively than those who have undergone open adrenalectomy and can usually their pain with non-narcotic pain medications (such as acetaminophen [Tylenol] and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication [ibuprofen]). For breakthrough pain, narcotic pain medications (hydorcodone, oxycodone, etc.) may be used when necessary. Patients that have had open adrenal surgery have significantly more pain after surgery and require more potent pain medications and additional methods for pain control. Epidurals may be used for the first few days post-operatively. Intravenous narcotics (such as morphine or fentanyl) are also often used for the first 2-3 days. When the patient is able to eat and the pain is under better control, intravenous medications are switched to oral pain medications.

After laparoscopic adrenalectomy, patients may be discharged from the hospital as early as the day after surgery. The typical stay is 1-2 nights in the hospital. Patients are usually able to eat the night of surgery. The overall recovery may take up to 2-4 weeks. After open adrenalectomy, the hospital stay is longer, ranging from 3-7 days and sometimes longer, depending on the details of the particular surgery. Once the patient can eat and drink, and pain is controlled on oral pain medications, the patient can be discharged home. Patients with a larger incision will need to avoid heavy lifting (> 10 lbs) for a month to avoid hernia formation at the incision. Your surgeon will advise you on the appropriate time to return to normal activities.