Adrenal sparing surgery in the treatment of renal cell carcinoma: When is it possible?

R. Autorino, G. Di Lorenzo, R. Damiano, S. Perdonà, A. Oliva, M. D'Armiento, M. De Sio

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Despite the fairly low incidence of adrenal involvement, adrenalectomy continues to be performed routinely as part of radical nephrectomy. With the recent development of modern imaging techniques and their widespread use, the frequency of small, low stage renal cell carcinomas (RCC) has grown considerably, giving rise to more conservative surgical approaches. We conducted a retrospective study in order to evaluate the incidence and characteristics of adrenal metastasis in RCC, trying to clarify the accuracy of computerized tomography (CT) in the diagnosis and the real need for adrenalectomy during surgery for RCC. The medical records of 192 patients undergoing radical nephrectomy and ipsilateral adrenalectomy for localized or advanced RCC, from 1996 to 2001, were analyzed retrospectively. We considered two subgroups of patients, 73 with stage T1-2 disease (group 1) and 119 with T3-4N0-1M0-1 disease (group 2) according to the 1997 TNM classification. In all cases, a blinded review of the preoperative abdominal CT was performed and an adrenal gland was considered to be abnormal if there was any aberration. Histopathology records of the surgical specimens were examined to determine the accuracy of the CT in identifying adrenal involvement by RCC. Descriptive statistics were used to evaluate the collected data. The overall incidence of adrenal metastasis was 4.1%. Mean renal tumor size in patients with adrenal involvement was 7.8 cm. The tumor stage correlated with the probability of adrenal spread (P <0.05), with T1-2 tumors accounting for 1.3% of cases only. An adrenal gland was diagnosed as abnormal on preoperative CT in 20 patients (10.4%). CT scans had 87.5% sensitivity, 92.9% specificity, 99.4% negative predictive value and 35% positive predictive value for adrenal involvement by RCC. Adrenal involvement is not likely in patients with localized early stage RCC, and adrenalectomy is unnecessary in such cases, particularly when the CT is negative. However, radical nephrectomy, including removal of the ipsilateral adrenal gland, should be performed in patients with large, high risk tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-158
Number of pages6
JournalWorld Journal of Urology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003


  • Adrenalectomy
  • Carcinoma
  • Conservative surgery
  • Renal cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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