Adrenalectomy is a surgical procedure to remove one or both adrenal glands, which are two small organs above the kidneys. The adrenal glands secrete hormones which regulate the blood sugar levels and pressure, the metabolism and the immune system.
Usually, the tumors start in the outer part of the adrenal gland, called the cortex. There are two main types of adrenal cortex tumors: non-cancerous, called benign adenoma, and cancerous, called adrenal cortical carcinoma.
The adrenal cortical cancer is usually detected when the symptoms are hard to be ignored. Fluid build-up, weight gain, excess facial or body hair in women, early puberty in children are some of these symptoms. When the tumors get very large they press on other organs causing pain, a feeling of fullness and therefore weight loss.
Most adrenal gland cancers did not start there, but spread from other cancer types such as breast or lung cancers.
There are two main procedures to perform Adrenalectomy: open surgery and laparoscopic surgery, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
Open surgery Adrenalectomy is performed when the adrenal glands or the tumors on them are too large for laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon will make a large incision under the ribcage or on the sides of the body, allowing access to the adrenal glands and the blood vessels attached to them. The surgerys performed under general anesthesia. After the open adrenalectomy the patient will have to stay in the hospital for four or five days.
Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy procedures are more common than the open surgeries and have a success rate of almost 95%. The surgeon will make small incisions in the abdomen and close to the belly button through which a small camera will be inserted in the abdominal cavity. Using small instruments the adrenal glands will be removed through a plastic bag inserted in the abdomen and the blood vessels will be cauterized.
By performing Adrenalectomy laparoscopically there is a lower risk of infection and faster recovery time. The patient may leave the hospital after three days.
Two weeks after the surgery, no matter if open or laparoscopic, the patient is scheduled for a follow-up appointment. Patients are advised to avoid lifting heavy items for six to eight weeks after the procedure. From this point on, the drug therapy will replace the hormones which were produced by the adrenal glands.
As Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy is far more common than the open surgery, here are some of the most important benefits of this procedure:
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