Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy

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Duke endocrine surgeons remove adrenal tumors and diseased adrenal glands through small incisions in your abdomen or back. The minimally invasive procedure speeds your recovery, minimizes scarring, and lowers the risk of injury to other organs. We use this technique for many types of adrenal tumors, including tumors that produce excess hormones, enlarged tumors, and cancerous masses that may have spread to the adrenal gland from other organs, such as the lungs, colon, or ovaries.

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Pre-Surgical Tests

Imaging Tests

CT or MRI are often used to determine the size and location of an adrenal tumor, which helps to determine if you need surgery. These tests produce detailed 3D images of your adrenal glands so your doctor can find any abnormalities and assess your anatomy.

Surgical Consultation

Once a diagnosis of your adrenal tumor has been secured, a surgical consultation is advised to determine if you need surgery or if you can be safely monitored without surgery. If an adrenal tumor is identified, a thorough evaluation is necessary to ensure that the tumor is not releasing excess adrenal hormones. This testing is very important and should include adequate imaging of the adrenal glands and the tumor. Our surgeons are experts in evaluating adrenal masses and can guide you through the process and help determine whether or not you need surgery.  

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Adrenal Surgery Options

Doctors may recommend surgery to remove a portion or all of your adrenal glands to prevent the growth of a mass that could impact the production of your body's hormones. The masses are sometimes cancerous, and surgery could be a first step to best minimize health problems.

Minimally Invasive Adrenalectomy

When performing minimally invasive surgery, your surgeon creates small incisions in your abdomen or back, where a laparoscope is inserted. A laparoscope is a narrow tool with a tiny camera at its tip that allows your doctor to view and access the adrenal glands. Tiny surgical tools, also passed through the small incisions, are used by the surgeon to remove the adrenal gland containing the tumor, or a portion of the gland, if possible.

Different Approaches Available

There are several minimally invasive procedures to remove cancerous or diseased adrenal glands. Each option depends on the size and location of the tumor, any history of prior abdominal surgery, and the unique structure of your body. Duke surgeons are trained in the latest surgical techniques, including: 

  • Laparoscopic transabdominal: You lie on your side with feet slightly flexed to allow for better access to your abdominal organs.
  • Posterior laparoscopic retroperitoneal: This approach is performed while you are on your stomach. It is ideal for people who have had previous abdominal surgery.
  • Robotic: Surgeons use a robot arm to remove one or both adrenal glands. The robotic technology improves the angles and reach of the surgical procedure. It is performed while you lie on your side.

Open Surgery

If you are not a candidate for minimally invasive adrenalectomy, we may recommend open surgery, which requires larger abdominal incisions. This is typically recommended for people with very large adrenal tumors that cannot be removed through small incisions, or when tumors are beginning to compress other organs.

Your Recovery

If you receive laparoscopic or robotic surgery, you’ll stay at the hospital for at least one night before your discharge. There may be some discomfort during recovery, which typically takes about two weeks. At that point, you may slowly return to normal activities. If you undergo open surgery, you should expect to remain in the hospital for monitoring for up to four days. Recover following open surgery takes about six weeks.

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Why Choose Duke

A Team Approach
Our endocrine surgeons work with fellowship-trained endocrinologists, who are specialists in adrenal tumors. They also coordinate your care with specialists in adrenal therapies and cancers.

Support for You and Your Family
Our comprehensive support services help you minimize the side effects of treatment and cope with any emotional and psychological effects of your diagnosis and treatment. View all of our cancer support groups in our event calendar.

Best Hospital for Endocrinology and Diabetes in NC

When it comes to your care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our diabetes and endocrinology program is rated as high performing among the nation's top hospitals, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 05/07/2020