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Radiographics. 2001 Jul-Aug;21(4):995-1012.

State-of-the-art adrenal imaging.

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Department of Radiology of Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, 593 Eddy St, Providence, RI 02903, USA.


The adrenal gland is a common site of disease, and detection of adrenal masses has increased with the expanding use of cross-sectional imaging. Radiology is playing a critical role in not only the detection of adrenal abnormalities but in characterizing them as benign or malignant. The purpose of the article is to illustrate and describe the appropriate radiologic work-up for diseases affecting the adrenal gland. The work-up of a suspected hyperfunctioning adrenal mass (pheochromocytoma and aldosteronoma) should start with appropriate biochemical screening tests followed by thin-collimation computed tomography (CT). If results of CT are not diagnostic, magnetic resonance (MR) and nuclear medicine imaging examinations should be performed. CT has become the study of choice to differentiate a benign adenoma from a metastasis in the oncology patient. If the attenuation of the adrenal gland is over 10 HU at nonenhanced CT, contrast material-enhanced CT should be performed and washout calculated. Over 50% washout of contrast material on a 10-minute delayed CT scan is diagnostic of an adenoma. For adrenal lesions that are indeterminate at CT in the oncology patient, chemical shift MR imaging or adrenal biopsy should be performed. Certain features can be used by the radiologist to establish a definitive diagnosis for most adrenal masses (including carcinoma, infections, and hemorrhage) based on imaging findings alone.

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