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Am J Surg. 1997 Feb;173(2):120-5.

Anterior, posterior, or laparoscopic approach for the management of adrenal diseases?

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Athens Medical School Hospital, Alexandria General Hospital, Greece.



At the advent of laparoscopic adrenalectomy it seemed timely to us to assess the advantages and the overall results of the different techniques that are currently used in an approach to adrenalectomy.


Between 1984 and 1995, 165 patients underwent adrenalectomy. Eighty-six patients (37 men and 49 women with a mean age of 46.4 years) underwent adrenalectomy via the anterior approach, 61 patients (18 men and 43 women with a mean age of 43.8 years) underwent posterior extraperitoneal adrenalectomy, and 18 patients (8 men and 10 women with a mean age of 48.7 years) underwent anterior laparoscopic adrenalectomy. For statistical analysis of the different comparisons between the groups we used the t test for independent samples, the Wilcoxon test, chi-square, and one way analysis of variance.


There was no operative mortality. The morbidity was 13.9% in the anterior approach, 9.8% in the posterior approach, and 0% in the laparoscopic approach. The mean operating time for unilateral adrenalectomy was 155.3 min (range 75 to 315) for the anterior approach, 108.6 min (range 60 to 195) for the posterior approach and 116.1 min (range 75 to 180) for the laparoscopic approach. For bilateral adrenalectomy the mean operating time was 165 min for the anterior and 178 min for the posterior approach. The average diameter of tumors resected anteriorly was 8.07 cm (range 2.5 to 20), posteriorly was 5.25 cm (range 0.5 to 14), and laparoscopically was 4.03 cm (range 2 to 6.5). The mean length of postoperative hospitalization for patients undergoing unilateral adrenalectomy was 8 days (range 2 to 25) for the anterior approach, 4.5 days (range 1 to 11) for the posterior approach, and 2.2 days (range 1 to 5) for the laparoscopic approach. Patient controlled analgesia lasted 3.4 days for those operated anteriorly, 2.3 days for those operated posteriorly, and 1.08 days for those that underwent laparoscopic adrenalectomy.


The laparoscopic approach to the adrenal promises the safest and least painful operation with shorter in-hospital stay and the best cosmetic and long-term results. The posterior approach is the fastest of all and a better overall operation than the anterior approach that should only be reserved for removing very large adrenal tumors and when concomitant intra-abdominal procedures, that can't be handled laparoscopically, are anticipated.

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