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Adrenal Surgery

The adrenal glands, of which there are two, sit on top of your kidneys and produces hormones vital to help maintain blood pressure, salt balance and help in times of stress.


The Adrenal Glands each have two layers. The outer layer, or cortex, produces hormones such as aldosterone and cortisol. The inner layer or medulla produces the hormones of “fight or flight” adrenaline and noradrenaline. The majority of adrenal tumours are non-functioning benign adenomas and often do not require surgical intervention.

Tumours arising from the adrenal gland fall into 1 of 3 categories:

  1. Functioning

  2. Malignant

  3. Benign, non-functional tumours (adenomas, myelolipomas, cysts, ganglioneuromas)

When might Adrenal surgery be required?


Tumour producing excess hormones

  • Phaeochromocytoma – excess adrenaline and noradrenaline producing drenching sweats, high blood pressure, a racing heart/palpitaions and headaches.

  • Conn’s syndrome – High blood pressure from retention of salt and water.

  • Cushing’s syndrome – excess cortisol production resulting in diabetes, hypertension, thin skin, and weight gain.


Lesions that look like cancer 

  • Some tumours may not produce excess hormones but are of a sufficient size or have other characteristics on imaging which make a cancer possible.



  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma - An uncommon cancer arising from the adrenal gland that if managed early with surgery improves outcomes.

  • Metastatic cancer - Occasionally cancer spreads from somewhere else to the adrenal gland.

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