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Surgery. 2001 Dec;130(6):1072-7.

Iatrogenic pheochromocytomatosis: a previously unreported result of laparoscopic adrenalectomy.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco, Calif., USA.



Laparoscopic adrenalectomy is now regarded as the procedure of choice for treatment of small or benign adrenal tumors, including pheochromocytoma. However, long-term outcomes have not been critically assessed. We report here 3 cases of pheochromocytomatosis recurring 3 to 4 years after laparoscopic adrenalectomy. We postulate laparoscopic-induced seeding of tumor as the mechanism of recurrence.


We retrospectively reviewed the cases of 3 patients with documented biochemical and radiolabeled metaiodobenzylguanidine evidence of recurrent pheochromocytoma after prior presumed curative laparoscopic adrenalectomy.


Original pheochromocytomas were 5.5 to 6.5 cm in diameter. At the time of laparoscopic adrenalectomy, tumors were not believed to be malignant, based on clinical or histopathologic data. However, on 3- to 4-year follow-up, each patient developed symptoms, elevated urinary catecholamine levels, and metaiodobenzylguanidine imaging consistent with recurrence. At reoperation, multiple small tumor nodules were found in the adrenal bed near the site of the initial laparoscopic resection. The original operative notes suggested some possible method of local seeding: tumor fragmentation and spillage or excessive tumor manipulation.


Pheochromocytoma recurrence may occur as a result of local spillage of tumor during laparoscopic adrenalectomy. The relative risk of recurrence between open and laparoscopic resection needs to be assessed. Long-term follow-up will continue to be important, regardless of operative approach.

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