The Necessity of Adrenalectomy at the Time of Radical Nephrectomy: A Systematic Review

Rebecca L. O'Malley, Guilherme Godoy, Jamie A. Kanofsky, Samir S. Taneja

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: We describe the literature base pertaining to adrenalectomy at radical nephrectomy and present a pragmatic approach based on primary tumor and disease characteristics. Materials and Methods: Literature searches were performed via the National Center for Biotechnology Information databases using various keywords. Articles that pertained to the concomitant use of adrenalectomy with radical nephrectomy were surveyed. Results: The incidence of solitary, synchronous, ipsilateral adrenal involvement, ie that which is potentially curable with ipsilateral adrenalectomy along with nephrectomy, is much lower than previously thought at 1% to 5%. Evidence to date supports increased size and T stage, multifocality, upper pole location and venous thrombosis as risk factors for adrenal involvement. Cross-sectional imaging is now accurate at demonstrating the absence of adrenal involvement but still carries a significant risk of false-positives. The morbidity of adrenalectomy is minimal except in those patients with metachronous contralateral adrenal metastasis in whom the impact of adrenal insufficiency can be devastating. Disease specific and overall survival of those undergoing radical nephrectomy, with or without adrenalectomy, are similar. The survival of patients with widespread metastatic disease is historically poor regardless of whether adrenalectomy is performed. There is evidence for a survival advantage in patients with isolated adrenal metastasis, although this group comprises no more than 2% of those undergoing surgery for renal tumors. Conclusions: The apparent benefit of ipsilateral adrenalectomy does not support it as a standard practice in all patients with normal imaging. However, it should be considered in select cases in which there are risk factors for adrenal involvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2009-2017
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009


  • adrenal gland neoplasms
  • adrenalectomy
  • carcinoma
  • kidney neoplasms
  • nephrectomy
  • renal cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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