What are the Adrenal Glands?
The adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped organs that are located above each kidney. They are endocrine organs, producing essential hormones that are involved in many bodily functions including blood pressure, fluid and electrolyte maintenance, glucose control, and the adrenaline reaction during stress. The hormones produced include cortisol, aldosterone, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and some of the body’s sex hormones. Only one adrenal gland is needed to provide the body’s necessary hormones.
Who Needs an Adrenalectomy?
The development of disease in the adrenal glands is rare. The most common cause of a patient needing to have an adrenal gland removed is the development of a tumor that causes release of an excess hormone. These tumors can cause a variety of symptoms, some of which can be quite serious. Some adrenal tumors need to be removed even if they aren’t producing any excess hormones. These tumors need to be removed if they reach a certain size or have other characteristics suspicious for a malignant neoplasm. Some examples of adrenal tumors include:
- Pheochromocytomas – These tumors produce excess adrenaline-like hormones which can cause dangerous swings in blood pressure and heart rate. They can also cause fainting spells, heart palpitations, headaches and excessive sweating.
- Aldosterone secreting tumors – These tumors can also cause high blood pressure and can effect fluid and electrolyte levels. Other symptoms may include weakness and fatigue.
- Cortisol secreting tumors – These tumors can cause a disease called Cushing’s syndrome. It is marked by obesity, primarily in the face and trunk, as well as changes in blood pressure, high blood sugar, fragile skin and stretch marks. Cushing’s syndrome can also be caused by tumors in other locations including the pituitary gland.
Other examples of adrenal tumors include some sex-hormone producing tumors, metastatic lesions from other cancers such as breast or lung cancer, or primary adrenal cancer.
Removal of the adrenal gland is the preferred treatment for patients with adrenal tumors that secrete excess hormones, primary adrenal tumors that appear malignant, and other adrenal masses. This procedure is now commonly done laparoscopically, which had proven to be a major advancement in the management of adrenal tumors. This approach leads to a faster recovery, less post-operative pain and a shorter hospital stay than the traditional open surgery.
Adrenal masses do require a comprehensive medical work up. We will be happy to talk with you in concert with your endocrinologist and/or your primary care physician to determine if you are a candidate for a laparoscopic adrenalectomy.
When faced with needing surgery it’s important to consider all of your options. There are numerous benefits to having surgery in an outpatient ambulatory surgical center like Atlanta General and Bariatric Surgery Center (AGBSC). Our surgery center is located in Johns Creek, GA, and serves patients from all over the Metro Atlanta area and beyond including Macon, Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, Roswell, Duluth, Cumming, and Gainesville, GA. Our board certified surgeons provide a carefully structured general surgery and weight loss program for all patients in a comfortable, caring and less stressful environment.