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Eur Urol. 2005 Aug;48(2):252-7. Epub 2005 Apr 21.

The therapeutic value of adrenalectomy in case of solitary metastatic spread originating from primary renal cell cancer.

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Department of Urology, Eberhard Karls - University, Tübingen, FRG, Hoppe-Seyler-Strasse 3, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.



Solitary adrenal metastases occur in about 1.2-10% of renal cell cancer patients. Since the vast majority of intraadrenal lesions can be detected preoperatively, we and others have recently recommended to renounce a routine adrenalectomy during surgery of renal cell cancer. However, the impact of adrenalectomy on the patients' clinical prognosis in case of a solitary metastatic lesion within the adrenal gland remains an issue of controversial discussion. Whereas some authors suggest adrenalectomy as a potentially curative treatment option in these cases, others compare its clinical value with that of a mere lymphadenectomy.


Between 1981 and 2000, 648 patients (440 males and 208 females) underwent nephrectomy in combination with adrenalectomy in our clinic for the diagnosis of renal cell cancer. The median age at first diagnosis was 59 (range 33-84) and 60 (range 20-85) years for male and female patients, respectively. The median postoperative follow - up was 2.4 years (0.2-18 years). According to the TNM - classification system (2003) tumor stages were classified as follows: T1, 228 pat. (37%); T2, 70 pat. (11%); T3, 287 pat. (46%); T4, 37 pat. (6%). In total, 339 patients revealed regional lymph node or distant metastases at the time of the surgical treatment. Although metastases of the adrenal gland were diagnosed in 48 patients, solitary intraadrenal metastases without further systemic spread were observed in only 13 cases. Several patients' and tumor characteristics (age, tumor stage and size, the presence of regional lymph node metastases, the presence of metastatic lesions at different organ sites as well as the detection of solitary intraadrenal metastases) were correlated with the patients' overall survival by univariate and multivariate statistical analysis (logistic Cox regression analysis).


The median long - term survival was 4.8 years for the entire cohort of patients investigated. The median long - term survival was 13.8 years and 11.7 years for patients with no evidence of metastatic spread as well as for patients with a solitary intraadrenal metastatic lesion, respectively. Accordingly, the long - term survival rates at 5 and 10 years after surgery were 66%/50% and 51%/51% for patients with no evidence of metastatic spread or isolated intraadrenal metastases. This difference was not statistically significant. In contrast, for patients revealing lymph node or distant metastases at other organ sites, the median long - term survival was significantly decreased (lymph node metastases: 0.7 years; distant metastases: 1.2 years).


For patients with a solitary intraadrenal metastatic lesion, adrenalectomy is a potentially curative treatment option. The observation that the long - term survival of the latter patients is comparable to that of patients with organ - confined disease might suggest the establishment of a separate TNM - category for patients revealing a solitary metastasis within the adrenal gland and no hint at further systemic metastatic spread.

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