Surgery for Adrenal Gland Tumors

Minimally Invasive Approach

At Scott & White, we use minimally invasive approaches whenever possible. Benefits of minimally invasive laparoscopic adrenalectomy, retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy and RAPRA include:

  • Better cosmetic result
  • Quicker recovery times, allowing you to:
    • Return to your daily routine sooner
    • Begin future treatment sooner
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Fewer complications

Not all patients are candidates for a minimally invasive approach. Factors affecting the decision to use minimally invasive techniques include:

  • Tumor size, stage or location
  • Patient obesity and health
  • Prior surgeries

The endocrine surgeons at Scott & White are leaders in the development and use of minimally invasive techniques for adrenal tumor removal, and whenever possible and appropriate, we prefer a laparoscopic approach to your surgery.

Terry C. Lairmore, MD, Endocrine Surgeon and Chief of Surgical Oncology

Surgery is usually the first treatment approach for adrenal gland tumors. There are several options for surgery. Your surgeon will discuss which one is best for you.

If your tumor has caused elevated levels of catecholamines (stress hormones related to adrenaline), you may need blood pressure medication during surgery. Also, if your tumor has caused elevated levels of cortisol, you may need medication following surgery to gradually lower your dependence on this hormone.

Surgical Procedures

Your operation may be performed using one of the following methods:

  • Traditional laparoscopic surgery
  • Robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery
  • Traditional open surgery

Your physician will discuss which option is best for you. As with all operations, there are some risks. Your surgeon will discuss those risks with you.


Your physician may recommend an adrenalectomy, or the surgical removal of your adrenal gland with the tumor. At Scott & White, our philosophy is to use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible.

For Small Adrenal Gland Tumors

If your adrenal tumor is small (less than 5 cm) and not suspicious for a cancerous growth, it’s likely that you will be a candidate for a laparoscopic removal of your tumor. A laparoscope is a small, thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end.

Pioneering Surgery for Adrenal Gland Tumors

The Scott & White endocrine cancer surgery team members are experts in the field for two new procedures that are less invasive, less painful and allow you a quicker recovery:

  • Posterior Retroperitoneoscopic Adrenalectomy (PRA)
  • Robot-assisted PRA (RAPRA)

Dr. Terry C. Lairmore is nationally recognized for his pioneering advances in the field and the development of the RAPRA procedure.

Find out more »

Laparoscopic removal of the adrenal gland is a surgical procedure performed in the operating room under general anesthesia. “The advantages of laparoscopic or minimally invasive operation are very small incisions that allow you to recover more quickly with less pain following your operation,” says Dr. Lairmore.

In this procedure, your surgeon will make three to four small incisions in your abdomen or flank. Using a telescope and a video system, your surgeon will precisely identify and remove your adrenal gland. A tissue sample will be sent to the laboratory for assessment by a pathologist; the report will be sent to your surgeon in about a week.

The surgery will take around one to three hours. In most cases, you’ll stay in the hospital one to two days, but your surgeon will evaluate your progress and determine when you should be discharged from the hospital following surgery.

For Large Adrenal Gland Tumors

If your tumor is large (more than 5 cm) or if your tumor appears to likely be cancerous (malignant), your surgeon will likely recommend open surgery to adequately remove all of the tumor and deal with any more complicated factors.

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