Is an Adrenalectomy?
An adrenalectomy is an organ-removal surgery that removes one or
both of your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two small organs, one
located above each kidney. They secrete hormones that help regulate many bodily
functions, including your immune system, metabolism, blood sugar levels, and
blood pressure control.
Do I Need an Adrenalectomy?
Benign or cancerous tumors on your adrenal glands are the most
common reason for an adrenalectomy. Surgeons may remove one or both of your
adrenal glands if they contain a tumor. If you only need one adrenal gland
removed, the remaining adrenal gland can take over and provide full
If one or both of your adrenal glands produces too much of a hormone,
you may need an adrenalectomy. Excess hormone production is a symptom of a
tumor in your adrenal glands.
Do I Prepare for an Adrenalectomy?
An adrenalectomy is a surgical procedure that takes place in a
hospital or medical setting. You will receive general anesthesia for your procedure.
The anesthesia puts you to sleep so that you don’t feel pain during surgery.
Anesthesia can make you feel nauseated. Your doctor will instruct
you to not eat or drink after midnight the day before your surgery. That way,
if you become nauseated from the anesthesia, there will be nothing in your
stomach to vomit.
A surgeon can perform an adrenalectomy as either an open surgery
or a laparoscopic
procedure. Laparoscopic surgery can reduce your risk of infection and
shorten your recovery time. Ask your doctor which type of adrenalectomy you
Is an Adrenalectomy Performed?
If your adrenal glands or the tumors on them are especially
large, your surgeon may opt for an open procedure. In an open adrenalectomy,
the surgeon makes large incisions under your ribcage or on the sides of your
body. These incisions allow the surgeon access to the glands and the blood
vessels attached to them.
The surgeon will disconnect each adrenal gland from the
surrounding blood vessels and tissue. The surgeon will then tie off the blood
vessels to prevent excessive bleeding, and take the adrenal glands out of your
body. Your surgeon will rinse your abdominal cavity with a sterile saline
solution before closing the wounds. Then they will close the incisions with
Laparoscopic adrenalectomies are more common than open procedures.
They also have a high success rate. During a laparoscopic adrenalectomy, a
surgeon makes small incisions in your abdomen and near your belly button to
access the adrenal glands. One significant benefit to the laparoscopic method
is a faster recovery time.
The surgeon inserts a tiny camera into one of the incisions. This
lets your surgeon see your abdominal cavity on a monitor. They will fill your
abdominal cavity with gas to help the doctor see the adrenal glands clearly.
Using instruments inserted into the incisions, the surgeon will
disconnect the adrenal glands and cauterize the blood vessels. They’ll remove
the adrenal glands from your body through a plastic bag that the doctor inserts
into your abdominal cavity.
Happens After an Adrenalectomy?
After your adrenalectomy procedure, you’ll rest in a recovery
room where staff can monitor your vital signs. Once you wake up from the
anesthesia, you’ll rest in a regular hospital room.
If you have an open adrenalectomy, you’ll probably stay in the
hospital for four or five days. You can usually go home two to three days after
a laparoscopic adrenalectomy. You’ll most likely feel some pain at the incision
sites. If you have a laparoscopic adrenalectomy, you might also feel some
cramping or bloating caused by the gas in your abdomen.
Your surgeon will schedule a follow-up appointment with you two
weeks after the surgery. Discuss any residual pain or other concerns you may
have at this meeting. You may need some follow-up care if you encountered any
complications from your surgery. However, most patients recover well and don’t
experience complications. Generally, adrenalectomy patients can return to work
or school as soon as they feel ready. However, doctors will tell you to avoid
heavy lifting for six to eight weeks after surgery.
If the adrenalectomy removed both of your adrenal glands, you’ll also
receive supplemental drug therapy to replace the hormones that your adrenal
glands normally produce.