An adrenalectomy is a surgical procedure that is designed to remove one or both of the adrenal glands that sit atop a person’s kidneys. These glands help produce various hormones that regulate bodily functions like your blood pressure and metabolism, but if damage occurs or tumors develop on these glands, an adrenalectomy may need to be performed. There are two common types of adrenalectomy procedures, and we take a look at their differences and similarities in today’s blog.
Minimally Invasive Adrenalectomy
The first type of adrenalectomy we’ll focus on is also the most common type of procedure performed, and it is known as a laparoscopic or minimally invasive adrenalectomy. As the name implies, this version of the procedure aims to reduce the physical impact of the procedure on the patient while still producing successful surgical results.
During the minimally invasive approach, your surgeon will make three or four small incisions (a few centimeters in size) under your rib cage in order to access your adrenal gland. From there, they will use special instruments including a microscopic camera in order to allow the surgeon to visualize the surgical site on a large screen near the operating table. The surgeon will then perform the operation while watching their maneuvers on the feed that is being relayed to the television. The surgeon will remove the entire adrenal gland in order to fully remove the tumor, leaving you with one healthy adrenal gland that can provide all the hormonal control you’ll need going forward. In the event that both of your adrenal glands need to be removed, you’ll need to take medications to regulate these hormone levels for the rest of your life.
The minimally invasive procedure is preferred to the open technique for a number of reasons, including:
- Less pain during recovery
- Shorter recovery time
- Less reliance on pain medications after surgery
- Reduced likelihood of complications
- Quicker return to activity
In general, patients who choose the minimally invasive procedure tend to have lower costs associated with their hospital stay because they can be discharged sooner. Based on everything we know about the minimally invasive operation, you might be asking yourself, why would anyone choose to undergo the open operation? That’s because not everyone is a candidate for the minimally invasive procedure.
Based on the benefits we just read about the laparoscopic procedure, we know that the open technique isn’t perfect. During the open technique, the surgeon will make a single incision that is larger in size (about 6-10 inches) in order to have clear access to the adrenal gland. Unlike the minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon will be able to visualize the gland without the assistance of a relayed video feed, and this clearer view of the adrenal gland helps reduce the risk of striking nearby structures.
Not only does the open technique provide a better visual of the adrenal gland, but it also allows the surgeon to see the nearby structures and check for problems. In patients with larger tumors, the open technique is preferred to ensure the entire tumor is removed and any affected nearby structures can be addressed as necessary. If scans show that you have a tumor that is larger than four centimeters, most surgeons will recommend an open procedure. You may have a little more pain and a slightly higher risk of a complication like blood loss or infection, but you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that the surgeon will be able to get a clear look at the tumor and all the important nearby structures.
Both procedures have very high rates of success and an experienced surgeon like Dr. Koeplin can carefully manage any potential issues with either technique. For more information, or for questions about adrenal gland issues, reach out to Dr. Koeplin’s office today.