Incidentally discovered adrenal tumors: Endocrine and scintigraphic correlates

Luisa Barzon, Carla Scaroni, Nicoletta Sonino, Francesco Fallo, Michele Gregianin, Corrado Macri', Marco Boscaro

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Hormonal and morphological data were investigated in 202 consecutive patients with adrenal incidentalomas (171 unilateral and 31 bilateral) in an attempt to assess subclinical hyperfunction or malignancy. In addition to the classical evaluation, scintiscan was carried out in a large number of these patients. In unilateral incidentalomas, 83% showed normal hormonal function, whereas 17% had biochemical signs of adrenal overactivity (hyperaldosteronism in 3, hypercortisolism in 17, medullary hyperfunction in 9). [75Se]Methylnorcholesterol scintigraphy depicted malignant, space-occupying lesions as decreased or absent radiotracer uptake by the mass, and cortical adenomas as increased or normal uptake. In cortical adenomas a relationship between radiocholesterol uptake and degree of functional autonomy was demonstrated. [123I]Metaiodobenzilguani- dine scintiscan visualized 7 of 8 pheochromocytomas. In bilateral incidentalomas, abnormal adrenal function was more frequent, accounting for 29% of cases (hyperaldosteronism in 3, hypercortisolism in 3, adrenal insufficiency in 2, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia in 1). Malignant lesions were not scintigraphically visualized. [75Se]Methylnorcholesterol scan also provided functional information in the case of a cortisol-secreting adenoma and an aldosteronoma with a concomitant contralateral nonhypersecreting adenoma, showing the greatest uptake in the hyperfunctioning adenomas. In both unilateral and bilateral lesions, endocrine testing failed to differentiate benign from malignant tumors. Although hormonal assessment is mandatory to clarify the functional patterns, only morphofunctional examination by scintiscan seems to provide more data about the likelihood of malignancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-62
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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