What is adrenal surgery?

Adrenal surgery is a type of surgery that aims to remove one or both adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are small triangular shaped glands that sit above the kidneys. Your adrenal glands produce important hormones the body needs to function properly (for example: adrenaline, aldosterone, and cortisol).

Why would someone need adrenal surgery?

If you develop tumors in your adrenal glands, many conditions that have negative side effects can occur. Cushing’s Syndrome, Conn’s Syndrome, or Pheochromocytoma are all conditions that have had high success rates in being treated with adrenal surgery.

In order to avoid many of the negative effects of adrenal tumors (which include obesity, diabetes, sexual dysfunction, excessive urination, hypertension, among others) your doctor may recommend that you undergo surgery to remove one or both adrenal glands.

Just like with many cancerous tumors, adrenal tumor treatment must be addressed by expert physicians. The preferred treatment method is robotic laproscopic removal of the tumor or infected tissue. Many times this involves an adrenalectomy, or the removal of the whole adrenal gland.

Cleveland Clinic has one of the largest experiences in the United States with laparoscopic adrenal procedures. Because of our extensive experience, we believe there is seldom a compelling reason for an open adrenalectomy except for in the occasional patient with a large, locally invasive adrenal cancer. Minimally invasive adrenalectomy is our treatment of choice for virtually all benign and some metastatic adrenal tumors.

Laparoscopic treatment options include unilateral, bilateral or partial adrenalectomy. Needlescopic adrenalectomy, an even less invasive technique, has been developed and refined at Cleveland Clinic.

What happens before an adrenal surgery?

Preparing for surgery is an important part of the surgical process. Your Cleveland Clinic doctor will work with you to explain what dietary, medication, or nutritional supplements you will need to be best prepared for an adrenal surgery. However, much of the preparation for adrenal surgery are similar to other major surgical procedures. Because adrenal tumors can cause hypertension or potassium imbalance in the blood, your doctor may direct you to take medication to try to minimize these factors. After surgery, chronic high blood pressure typically resolves rather quickly.

What happens during adrenal surgery?

Patients are first given general anesthesia and placed on their back or side. A catheter will be used to drain the patient’s bladder. A nurse will administer an intravenous (IV) tube to keep the patient hydrated during the procedure.

Doctors will make four to five small incisions to use for the laproscopic equipment. One incision will be used to monitor the surgery with a very small camera. The procedure is conducted through the other small incisions with micro-surgery tools and the gland will be removed through one of them.

What happens after adrenal surgery?

Recovery from laproscopic adrenal surgery is typically much faster than open adrenal surgery. After a patient undergoes laproscopic adrenal surgery they are monitored and given a liquid diet. The next day, they are given normal food and treated as needed for pain. Patients will be asked to walk around the same day of the surgery to decrease the likelihood of blood clots and to encourage blood circulation to the surgery site.


Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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