What Is an Adrenalectomy?

Adrenal glads
Illustration of kidneys and adrenal glands

Adrenalectomy is an operation in which one or both adrenal glands are removed. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system and are located just above the kidneys.

Adrenalectomy can be performed in two ways. The type of surgery you undergo depends on the problem being treated.

With open surgery, the surgeon makes one large surgical cut to remove the gland.

With the laparoscopic technique, several small cuts are made.

Our surgeons will discuss which approach is better for you.

For the surgery, you will be placed under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).

After the adrenal gland is removed, it is sent to a pathologist for examination under a microscope.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

The adrenal gland is removed when there is known cancer or a growth (mass) that might be cancer.

Sometimes a mass in the adrenal gland is removed because it releases a hormone that can cause harmful side effects.

One of the most common tumors is a pheochromocytoma, which can cause very high blood pressure.

Other disorders include Cushing syndrome, Conn syndrome, and an adrenal mass of unknown cause.


As with any operation, there will be discomfort after surgery.

Your healthcare provider will prescribe pain medications.

You may need stool softeners to avoid constipation.

Our team will give you instructions about restricting your activities.

Most patients who undergo laparoscopic adrenalectomy have a shorter hospital stay, less pain, and faster recovery compared to the open procedure.

Complete recovery from the procedure may take several weeks or longer, depending on the type of surgical cuts you have.


Yeh MW, Duh QY. The adrenal glands. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 41.

Copyright 1997-2014 A.D.A.M. Inc.