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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2003 Jun;29(5):467-74.

Review of surgical management of aldosterone secreting tumours of the adrenal cortex.

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  • 1Department of Endocrine Surgery, University Hospital of Wales, Health Park, Cardiff, Wales, UK.



To evaluate the investigation and surgical management of primary hyperaldosteronism. Retrospective case note analysis of thirty-three patients who underwent adrenalectomy for primary hyperaldosteronism between 1982 and 2001 and a current relevant literature review.


The records of twelve male and twenty-one female patients, age range 18 to 81 (mean 48 years) were reviewed. Eleven operations were performed by an open approach and twenty-two laparoscopically. Preoperative investigations included computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), selective venous sampling and seleno-cholesterol isotope scanning, along with biochemical and hormonal assays. Twenty-six benign adenomas, three nodular hyperplastic lesions, one primary adrenal hyperplasia and three functional carcinomas were excised. Mean follow up was 12 months.


Patients had a mean blood pressure of 185/107 mmHg for 6.2 years mean duration. The mean severity of hypokalaemia was 2.7 mmol/l. Sensitivity of CT scanning was 85%, and of MRI 86%. Fifty percent of seleno-cholesterol scans were accurate. Mean operating time was 158 min for laparoscopic adrenalectomy whilst open surgery took 129 min (p=0.2, NS). Two cases commenced laparoscopically required open access for control of primary haemorrhage whilst one other bleed was managed via the operating ports. Mean postoperative stay was significantly shorter for the laparoscopic group (3 days compared with 7.9 days, p<0.0001). Thirty day mortality was zero. There were three infective complications in the open group (two chest, one wound) with no postoperative complications in the laparoscopic group. All patients were cured of hypokalaemia, whilst 62% cure of hypertension was achieved. Of those patients whose blood pressure was improved preoperatively by spironolactone 78% were cured by adrenalectomy. Adrenalectomy led to an overall reduction in the mean number of anti-hypertensive medications (2.3 drugs preoperative to 0.6 postoperative, p<0.0001). Of those not cured, 58% had improved blood pressure control requiring less medication on average (1.6 drugs compared with 2.6 drugs, p=0.08). Mean age of patients not cured by surgery was 55 years, whilst those cured was 44 years (p=0.03).


Primary hyperaldosteronism is a rare but important cause of hypertension. Selective venous sampling is a useful tool where investigations are inconclusive and fail to lateralise secretion. Patients with primary hyperaldosteronism enjoy lower complication rates and earlier discharge with the advent of laparoscopic surgery. Most patients will be cured of their hypertension and all of hypokalaemia. Laparoscopic adrenalectomy is now the accepted method of surgery for benign hyperaldosteronism. Those with bilateral disease due to idiopathic hyperaldosteronism (IHA) are not candidates for surgery and should be treated medically.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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