Adrenal tumors are called functioning tumors if it is causing symptoms. When these tumors are removed, they can help you avoid long-term health problems. These problems may be a stroke, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney problems. Plus, if your tumor is more than 4 centimeters across, it is most likely cancerous and needs to be removed.
There are two surgical procedures that can be used to remove adrenal tumors. One is total adrenalectomy which means that your adrenal gland is completely removed. The other one is partial adrenalectomy which means that only part of the adrenal gland is removed.
Most surgical procedures are made with small incisions in the abdomen. Still, some larger tumors need to be removed through the lower back. Usually, if you you have abdominal scars from previous surgeries, you may have to have the tumor removed through your back as well.
In total adrenalectomy with a large functioning adrenal tumor, your entire adrenal gland may need to be removed. One gland can usually do what is necessary for you to live. Your gland may be removed if you a cancerous tumor is called adrenocortical carcinoma. It may also be removed if cancer has spread from your adrenal gland to other parts of your body.
Partial adrenalectomy will involve removing a functional noncancerous tumor from your adrenal gland. This surgical procedure lets the rest of your gland intact.
There are different types of surgical approaches that can be used, with minimally invasive surgery being used as often as possible.
Laparoscopic surgery can be used on both radical adrenalectomy and partial adrenalectomy. The surgeon makes three or four small incisions between ¼ to ½ inches long in your abdomen or back. The surgeon carefully inserts a laparoscope which is a thin, lighted tube with a camera on one end. The camera creates two-dimensional images on the monitor. The surgical instruments are inserted through the laparoscope by your surgeon to remove your tumor.
Robotic-assisted surgery can also be used to remove cancerous and benign adrenal tumors. Robotic surgery has an additional arm with a camera that shows magnified, three-dimensional images on a computer screen. This will help to guide your surgeon when the operation is being performed.
When the procedure is being performed, the camera and surgical instruments are inserted through your abdomen with small incisions. There is a console located in the operating room where your surgeon is sitting. From here, the surgeon controls the camera and instruments while performing your surgery.
The other option is open surgery. Your surgeon makes a long incision during this surgery in your abdomen. The adrenal gland tumor is then removed. This option is used if you have a large cancerous tumor or if there is scar tissue on your abdomen. If you have a lot scar tissue on your abdomen, it can make the minimally invasive approaches more difficult.