The adrenal gland is an endocrine gland (hormone secreting gland) that sits above the superior pole of the kidney, on both the left and right of the body. The adrenal gland is responsible for secreting hormones in three main areas. The first is hormones that control the flight and fight response, adrenaline and noradrenaline. The second area is hormones that control stress response, which is corticosteroids. The third area is hormones that control or help with renal function, aldosterone.
The adrenal gland can contain a growth or tumour that is actively secreting any of the above hormones which can cause a disease process. If it is identified that the adrenal gland has a tumour and is a hormone producing tumour surgery is needed. The adrenal gland can contain tumours that are not hormone secreting but if left unchecked and they grow, can become a cancer. Adrenal lumps can be identified after radiological investigations and after clinical assessment it may be deemed that some of these tumours or growths are best removed because of the potential or risk of the becoming a malignancy or a cancer.
Adrenal gland surgery these days can be done laparoscopically or keyhole. Removing the involved adrenal gland means that the remaining adrenal gland will function perfectly normally and perform all of the functions that the adrenal gland needs to. In other words, it is almost like having a spare if one adrenal gland is removed. The surgery involves 4 or 5 small incisions, dissection and identification of surrounding structures to enable access to the adrenal gland. Removal of the adrenal gland involves disconnecting its blood supply and dissection from the surrounding tissues. The procedure usually takes approximately two hours to perform and usually two to three nights are needed in hospital to recover from the operation and two weeks off work to recover from the procedure.
If the adrenal gland has an actively or hormonal secreting tumour this will require an endocrinologists input to manage the patient after surgery.