What is adrenalectomy ?

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Adrenalectomy: Overview

Adrenalectomy is surgery to remove all or part of one or both adrenal glands. The glands are above the kidneys. They make hormones that affect nearly every organ in the body. These hormones include adrenaline and cortisol. They do many things in the body. For example, they help control blood pressure. They help the body deal with stress. And they control the breakdown of fats and proteins in the liver.

This surgery may be done to remove a tumor that may or may not be cancer. It also may be done for people with Cushing's syndrome, a problem that causes too much cortisol in the body. It may be done to remove a tumor that makes too much adrenaline.

The surgery may be done through a single cut (incision). This is called open surgery. Or you may have laparoscopic surgery. To do this, the doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other tools through several small cuts.

If you have laparoscopic surgery, you may be able to leave the hospital the next day. With open surgery, you may stay in the hospital for a few days or longer.

How can you care for your child after an adrenalectomy?


  • Allow your child's body to heal. Don't let your child move quickly or lift anything heavy until they are feeling better.
  • Have your child rest when they feel tired.
  • Your child can do their normal activities when it feels okay to do so. Many children are able to return to normal activities within 2 to 4 weeks after surgery.
  • Have your child hold a pillow over the incisions when coughing or taking deep breaths. This will support the belly and may help to decrease pain.


  • Your child can eat a normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • If your child's bowel movements are not regular right after surgery, you can help your child to avoid constipation and straining. Have your child drink plenty of water. The doctor may suggest fiber, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.


  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart their medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.

Incision care

  • Your child will have a dressing over the cut (incision). A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If your child has strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • If your child had stitches, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.


  • Your child may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Pat the incision dry. Your child should not swim or take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

How do you prepare for an adrenalectomy?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

Adrenalectomy: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You are bleeding from the incision.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.

After your child's adrenalectomy: Overview

Adrenalectomy is surgery to remove one or both adrenal glands. These glands are located above the kidneys.

The doctor took out one or both of your child's adrenal glands through a cut (incision) in the front, side, or back of the torso. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

The area around the cut will feel sore after the surgery. This usually lasts about 1 to 2 weeks. The doctor may prescribe pain medicine for this.

Your child's body can work fine with one healthy adrenal gland. If both adrenal glands were removed, or if your child's remaining adrenal gland isn't healthy, your child can take medicine every day to replace the hormones that the glands were making.

What happens on the day of an adrenalectomy?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.