An adrenalectomy is a surgery to remove one, or very rarely, both of your adrenal glands.
You have two adrenal glands, one above each of your kidneys. These glands are a part of the endocrine system and affect most of the cells and organs in your body. Adrenal glands make hormones that regulate your metabolism, growth and development, stress response, mood, blood pressure and sexual function.
You may need surgery to remove adrenal glands to prevent the spread of cancer or control hormone production.
At Allina Health, you’ll have an experienced team of experts navigating your care from surgery through recovery.
Schedule a consultation with a surgeon near you.
When to consider an adrenalectomy
Adrenal glands are removed when they:
- become overactive and secrete too much hormone
- are large (more than two inches)
- are cancerous
In most cases, adrenal tumors are noncancerous (benign).
Who performs an adrenalectomy?
Your adrenalectomy is performed by a board-certified endocrine surgeon supported by an expert team dedicated to your overall wellness.
Your care team may include:
- a radiologist
- a nurse navigator
- an anesthesiologist
- a pharmacist
- an oncologist
How long does adrenal surgery take?
Most of these surgeries are minimally invasive, with only a few small incisions on the abdomen.
Minimally invasive (robotic or laparoscopic) adrenal surgery takes one to three hours, while open surgery can take three to four hours.
Recovering from an adrenalectomy
We’ll give you a customized treatment plan to fit your needs and answer any questions you may have as you recover at home. Your recovery time depends on the type of procedure.
- Robotic or laparoscopic adrenalectomy. In most cases, your surgeon will recommend robotic or laparoscopic surgery to minimize scarring and shorten your recovery time. Most people can go home the same day. However, some may need to stay in the hospital for one or two nights. Most people recover in one to three weeks.
- Open surgery. Open surgery can leave a larger scar from an incision under the rib cage or down the center of the abdomen. You’ll spend three to six days in the hospital. Open surgery is reserved for larger tumors or when there is a high suspicion of cancer in the adrenal gland. A full recovery can take as long as six weeks.
You’ll need to take hormone replacement for the rest of your life if both adrenal glands are removed. Your surgeon may prescribe medicine to minimize pain and prevent infection.
Adrenal surgery is generally safe. However, like all surgeries, there are risks, including:
- possible damage to nearby organs
- hernia (particularly for open adrenal surgery)
- a small risk for blood clots, lung complications and heart attack
Health insurance coverage and costs
Contact your health insurance provider about medical coverage and get a price estimate before scheduling adrenal surgery.
We’ll help you find the best payment and insurance options to fit your needs. You’ll pay any deductible amounts and charges your policy doesn’t cover
Reviewed by: Mark S. Sneider, MD
First published: 8/2/2022
Last reviewed: 8/2/2022