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Chest. 1992 Dec;102(6):1748-51.

The relationship of clinical findings to CT scan evidence of adrenal gland metastases in the staging of bronchogenic carcinoma.

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Department of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH 03756.



To determine whether, during the staging of newly diagnosed bronchogenic carcinoma, clinical indicators predict the presence or absence of adrenal metastases detected by computerized tomographic (CT) scans.


Retrospective review of charts and roentgenograms.


Academic medical center.


Two hundred five consecutive patients diagnosed with bronchogenic carcinoma, of whom 173 had sufficient data available for analysis.


Charts were reviewed for abnormalities in three clinical categories (signs, symptoms, and routine laboratory tests) and the presence of extrapulmonary tumor spread. The CT scans were reviewed for evidence of adrenal involvement by radiologists blinded to clinical findings.


Thirty patients had abnormal adrenal glands on CT scan. In 26 the abnormality was believed to represent adrenal metastasis, whereas in four the CT findings were consistent with adrenal adenomas. The frequency of adrenal metastases varied with the number of positive, clinical findings (chi 2 = 105.4; p < 0.001). All 26 patients with adrenal metastases had at least one clinical abnormality, and 21 (81 percent had abnormalities in either two or all three clinical categories. In 40 patients without any clinical indicators of widespread disease, none had CT evidence of adrenal metastases. The presence of adrenal metastases also varied with the extent of coexistent disease (chi 2 = 111.82; p < 0.001). Eighty-one percent (21) of the patients with and 18 percent of those without adrenal metastases had both intrathoracic and extrathoracic involvement.


Our findings indicate that adrenal metastases are found in patients with a large tumor burden who have clinical indicators of widespread disease. We found no evidence of adrenal metastases by CT in any patient with a normal clinical evaluation. We conclude that CT scans through the adrenal glands are unnecessary when staging newly diagnosed bronchogenic carcinoma if the findings from the initial clinical evaluation are normal.

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