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Ann Surg. 1993 Jun;217(6):595-601; discussion 601-3.

Management of pheochromocytomas in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 syndromes.

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Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.



The authors sought to determine the optimal surgical management of pheochromocytomas that develop in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2 syndromes.


The performance of empirical bilateral adrenalectomy in patients with MEN 2A or MEN 2B, whether or not they have bilateral pheochromocytomas, is controversial.


The results of unilateral or bilateral adrenalectomy were studied in 58 patients (49 with MEN 2A and 9 with MEN 2B). Recurrence of disease was evaluated by measuring 24-hour urinary excretion rates of catecholamines and metabolites and by computed tomography (CT) scanning.


The mean postoperative follow-up was 9.40 years. There was no operative mortality and malignant or extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas were not present. Twenty-three patients with a unilateral pheochromocytoma and a macroscopically normal contralateral gland underwent unilateral adrenalectomy. A pheochromocytoma developed in the remaining gland a mean of 11.87 years after the primary adrenalectomy in 12 (52%) patients. Conversely, 11 (48%) patients did not develop pheochromocytoma during a mean interval of 5.18 years. In the interval after unilateral adrenalectomy, no patient experienced hypertensive crises or other complications related to an undiagnosed pheochromocytoma. Ten (23%) of 43 patients having both adrenal glands removed (either at a single operation or sequentially) experienced at least one episode of acute adrenal insufficiency or Addisonian crisis, including one patient who died during a bout of influenza.


Based on these data, the treatment of choice for patients with MEN 2A or MEN 2B and a unilateral pheochromocytoma is resection of only the involved gland. Substantial morbidity and significant mortality are associated with the Addisonian state after bilateral adrenalectomy.

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