What do Adrenal Glands Do?
Your adrenal glands are small glands located on the top of each kidney; they are also called suprarenal glands.
The adrenal glands are part of your endocrine system, and they release different types of hormones that your body can’t function without. One hormone the adrenal glands release is cortisol, which helps your body respond to stressful situations. The adrenal glands also produce a small amount of sex hormones, including estrogen and testosterone.
Why Would Adrenal Glands Need to Be Removed?
Sometimes your adrenal glands release too much or too little of these hormones. This means your adrenal glands are not working properly and adrenal gland removal may be needed.
Surgery to remove one or both of your adrenal glands, called adrenalectomy, may be needed to remove cancerous tumors. Surgery may also be needed if non-cancerous tumors are causing the adrenal glands to release too much hormone, which can cause very high blood pressure or other dangerous conditions.
How Are Adrenal Glands Removed?
Your adrenal glands can be removed in two ways. During an open surgery, your surgeon makes one large cut to remove the gland. During minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon makes small cuts to remove the gland. People who have laparoscopic surgery tend to have a faster and less painful adrenalectomy recovery than those who have open surgery.
After surgery, you may receive medications to prevent adrenalectomy side effects such as blood clots, high blood pressure and pain. You may also have a sore throat from the breathing tube placed during surgery. Your nurse will help you do breathing exercises, care for your incision and be sure you can walk on the same day of your surgery.
After you return home, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions. Although you may feel better in a few days, your body still needs time to recover.
Can You Live Without Adrenal Glands?
Yes. How well you do after surgery depends on why your adrenal glands were removed. You may need to take certain medications, such as those for high blood pressure, but you should be able to resume a normal diet and activity level. In general, adrenalectomy recovery may take two to four weeks for laparoscopic surgery and a little longer for open surgery.
If a healthcare professional has instructed you that your adrenal glands need to be removed, request an appointment with one of our surgeons today. We will discuss the options available to treat your adrenal gland disorder and come up with a treatment plan that’s right for you.