What is adrenalectomy?

Adrenalectomy involves the surgical removal of the adrenal glands. There are two adrenal glands in the body. One adrenal gland is to one kidney. They are organs that produce hormones that have found use in many body processes like body metabolism, blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control, and immune responses amongst many others.

Why do you need an adrenalectomy?

Adrenalectomy becomes a necessity when you have tumors in one or both adrenal glands. The tumors can either be mild (benign) or severe (malignant). The mild forms are non-cancerous. The severe forms are cancerous. If the tumor is in both glands, the two glands will be surgically removed. If the tumor is in just one of the glands, that particular adrenal gland will be removed.

When adrenal glands begin to produce any of their hormones in extremely large quantities, it usually is an indicator that a tumor is present in either or both glands.

How to prepare for adrenalectomy

All adrenalectomies take place in the hospital or any medical setting. Before you are operated upon, you will be given general anesthesia. The anesthesia makes you numb to pains. With this anesthesia, you will soon find that you are sleeping and ready to be operated upon. Although you it might get you nauseated. Also, you will not take or drink anything after the midnight of the day you will be operated upon. So even if the anesthesia makes you feel nauseated, you will end up having nothing to throw up in your stomach.

An adrenalectomy can be done in two ways – open surgery or laparoscopic procedure.

In laparoscopic surgery, your risk of getting infection is minimal. Your recovery time is also contracted.

Your doctor will tell you which will be suitable for your condition.

How adrenalectomy is performed

Open Adrenalectomy

Open adrenalectomy is suitable for very large tumors. To perform this, a large incision will be made by your surgeon below your ribcage. The incision can also be made on either sides of your body. From this large incision, the doctor can reach to the adrenal glands and structures surrounding them including their blood vessels. The surgeon will then carefully disconnect the glands from their blood vessels and tie them off so that blood is not lost in large amounts. The adrenal glands will then be extracted from the body. A saline solution will afterwards be used to sterilize your abdominal cavity. The wounds and incision will be cleaned and stitched thereafter.

Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy

Open surgery is not as common as laparoscopic adrenalectomy. In order to perform a laparoscopic adrenalectomy, your surgeon will make small incisions in two places – one around your belly button and another, somewhere on your abdomen. This is to allow the adrenal glands to be accessible.

Once the surgeon is able to access your adrenal glands, a very tiny camera will be inserted through the incision. With this camera in your abdominal cavity, your surgeon can have a broad view of your abdominal cavity and the organs therein on a big monitor that the camera has been connected to. Filling your abdominal cavity with a special kind of gas will allow your surgeon to have a clearer view of your adrenal glands. Once the surgeon is able to have a broad and clearer view of your abdominal cavity, instruments will then be used to disconnect your adrenal glands. The blood vessels will then be cauterized, that is, tied off. The adrenal glands will subsequently be removed through a plastic bag that had already been inserted into your abdominal cavity.

Most laparoscopic adrenalectomies have very high success rates. They also have a record of quick recovery.

Post Adrenalectomy

After undergoing an adrenalectomy procedure, you’ll be taken to a special room where your vital signs will be monitored closely by people working with the surgeon. This special room is called a recovery room. That’s where you will be until the anesthesia has been completely cleared from your system. In other words, you’ll remain in the recovery room until you wake up from your anesthetic sleep. You can stay in the hospital for up to 5 days. But most adrenalectomies can make you return home earlier than that time, say 2 or 3 days.

Pain at the site of incision should be expected. Cramps and abdominal bloating are other symptoms that can arise from an adrenalectomy, too.

You will be scheduled for follow-up appointments that might last for two weeks post-surgery. If you feel any pain which persists for days or even weeks, let your doctor know at once. Complications may arise after the procedure and will hence need some level of follow-up treatment.

You can return to your normal life as soon as you get better after an adrenalectomy.

You are expected not to lift any heavy objects within 6-8 weeks after undergoing the surgery.

In an instance where both adrenal glands were removed, you will have to be placed permanently on hormone replacement therapy for the different hormones the adrenal glands produce.

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