Tutorial: Adrenal Surgery

Tutorial: Adrenal Surgery


Endocrine Service

Endocrine Surgery Tutorials

Adrenal Mass

Hypercalcemia (High Calcium Levels) and Parathyroid Disease

Neck (Thyroid) Mass

Thyroid Cancer

Surgical Approach to the Adrenal

Surgical Approach for Hyperparathyroidism

Surgical Approach for Thyroid Mass


At the University of Virginia the Endocrine Surgical Group has had extensive experience with adrenal surgery. Adrenal surgery may be performed using several different techniques and the choice of technique will be tailored to you and your particular adrenal gland problem.

Previously, all adrenal gland surgery necessitated an open incision on the back, flank, or abdomen. While the majority of adrenal problems can now be addressed with minimally invasive techniques, it is still the case that some adrenal problems are most safely and effectively addressed with open surgery. This includes larger or more aggressive tumors. Other factors about the patient and the tumor also may dictate this approach.

For many adrenal gland tumors, minimally invasive techniques are appropriate. These techniques involve making several small incision and using cameras and specialized instruments through these incisions. This is known as “laparoscopy”. Laparoscopic removal of one or both adrenal glands may be accomplished either through the abdomen (transabdominal) or through the back (retroperitoneal). The endocrine surgery group at the University of Virginia offers the ability to use either approach and your surgeon will recommend the most appropriate approach for you and your particular adrenal disease.

We believe that minimally invasive surgery offers several benefits over open surgery when used in the appropriate patients. When we studied our experience doing these operations at the University of Virginia, we found that patients having laparoscopic adrenal surgery had less bleeding and a shorter hospital stay than patients having open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery also typically results in less postoperative pain. However, it is important for the patient to understand that despite smaller incisions, this is still major surgery. The most important part of having achieving a good result from surgery is having an experienced adrenal surgeon perform an operation tailored to your adrenal problem.

If you desire further information regarding adrenal diseases, we recommend reviewing the “Adrenal Gland” portion of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons (AAES) Patient Education Site.