The adrenal glands are triangle-shaped endocrine glands that sit on top of each kidney. Although small in size, they secrete more than three dozen hormones directly into the bloodstream. These hormones affect nearly every organ in the body.
The inner layer of the adrenal gland releases hormones such as adrenaline, which helps control blood pressure and increases the heart rate, opens the airways, and shifts blood flow to the large muscles when the body reacts to stress. The outer layer of the adrenal gland releases cortisol, which, in addition to helping the body deal with stress, helps to control the breakdown of fats and proteins to make sugars in the liver, controls blood pressure and blood levels of potassium and sodium and other substances, and affects sexual development and reproduction.
Adrenal glands usually need to be removed because they either have a tumor, are secreting too much of a particular hormone, or both. Laparoscopic adrenalectomy involves the removal of the adrenal gland (or glands) through three or four incisions less than one cm in size.
Conditions that may indicate a need for endocrine surgery include but are not limited to:
Pheochromocytoma: a rare, usually benign tumor that develops in the core of an adrenal gland.
Aldosteronoma: an adrenal tumor which creates excessive amounts of the hormone aldosterone. (Aldosteronoma is also known as Conn’s Syndrome or Hyperaldosteronism.)
Incidentaloma Adrenaloma: an adrenal gland tumor that is discovered incidentally.
Adrenocortical Carcinoma: a rare but aggressive cancer originating in the steroid-producing tissue of the adrenal gland.
Cushing’s Syndrome: a condition in which the pituitary gland produces too much of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
Adrenal Cyst: a growth on the adrenal gland which may begin to cause back or abdominal pain as it increases in size.
Adrenal Melanoma: a rare but often malignant tumor also often found when screening for the spread of melanoma in a patient with known melanoma.