Adrenal surgery

This clinical information has been written by Dr Wilkinson to provide an overview of various conditions that may be relevant to certain patients. When you see Dr Wilkinson, he will provide you with more specific information about your case as well as information developed by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

You may be referred to Dr Wilkinson with one of the following concerns.

1. Adrenalectomy

Adrenalectomy, removal of an adrenal gland, is indicated in two main situations.

The first type of case is for management of an “incidentaloma” which is a lump or growth, in an adrenal gland which has been an incidental (unexpected) finding on a scan of the abdomen undertaken for an unrelated reason. In other words, you wouldn’t otherwise have known that anything was wrong. Sometimes adrenalectomy is necessary if there is any suspicion of cancer or if there is enough uncertainty to warrant removal in order to achieve a definitive diagnosis. However, many incidentalomas do not require surgery and may be kept under observation.

The second group includes those adrenal glands which are producing too much hormone, which is a functional issue. The hormone may be adrenaline-type (phaeochromocytoma); cortisol (Cushing’s Syndrome); or aldosterone (Conn’s Syndrome).

As with many conditions of the endocrine gland system, phaeochromocytomas can be hereditary and associated with other endocrine tumours, so tests will be organised to determine if this is the case.

An adrenalectomy will usually be performed laparoscopically, which is a form of ‘keyhole’ surgery requiring only fairly small incisions, generally with rapid post-operative recovery. However, some patients do require an open operation through a large abdominal incision.


To help understand what your experience may be like as a patient, please peruse Patient Information written by Dr Wilkinson for this website.