Anesthetic implications for surgical patients with endocrine tumors

Int Anesthesiol Clin. Summer 1998;36(3):31-44. doi: 10.1097/00004311-199803630-00006.


The preoperative evaluation and safe anesthetic treatment of patients with endocrine gland tumors mandate an understanding of the physiologic dysfunctions attributable to these tumors. Some patients will exhibit various signs and symptoms characteristic of the MEN syndromes. In the patient with acromegaly, a fiberoptic-guided intubation of the trachea to secure the airway before induction of general anesthesia must be anticipated. Anesthetic treatment of the patient with hyperadrenocorticism requires knowledge of the physiologic effect of excess cortisol. In the patient with severe hyperparathyroidism, we attempt to correct the markedly elevated plasma calcium levels and maintain adequate hydration and urine output perioperatively. Following thyroidectomy for MCT, 2 potential problems of concern are upper airway obstruction and aspiration resulting from injury (unilateral or bilateral) to the recurrent laryngeal nerve and the superior laryngeal nerve, respectively. The major focus during excision of an insulinoma is prevention of wide swings in blood glucose concentrations. In the gastrinoma patient, the anesthesiologist not only must correct any intravascular fluid volume deficit or electrolyte imbalance but must also consider the patient to have a full stomach at the time of anesthetic induction. Correction of hypokalemia and control of hypertension may be required in the preoperative preparation of the patient with an adrenal cortex tumor. Preoperative alpha-adrenergic blockade must be initiated in the patient with a pheochromocytoma to prevent dangerous elevations in blood pressure during anesthesia and surgery for the tumor's removal. Vasodilators with rapid onset and short duration are used to treat intraoperative hypertension. After ligation of the tumor's blood supply, falls in blood pressure may require treatment with fluids and vasopressors. Carcinoid syndrome patients should be treated with somatostatin to prevent stimuli such as anxiety, abdominal scrubbing, or tumor manipulation from precipitating severe hypotension, hypertension, bronchospasm, or tachycardia. In both pheochromocytoma and carcinoid patients, a smooth anesthetic induction and tracheal intubation plus avoidance of drugs that release histamine or activate the sympathetic nervous system may also prevent intraoperative crises.

MeSH terms

  • Acromegaly / physiopathology
  • Adrenocortical Hyperfunction / physiopathology
  • Anesthesia, General*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Calcium / blood
  • Carcinoid Tumor / surgery
  • Diuresis / physiology
  • Endocrine Gland Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Endocrine Gland Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Fiber Optic Technology / instrumentation
  • Gastrointestinal Contents
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / physiology
  • Hyperparathyroidism / physiopathology
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods
  • Laryngeal Nerve Injuries
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia / physiopathology
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia / surgery*
  • Pheochromocytoma / surgery
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries
  • Thyroidectomy / adverse effects
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / physiology


  • Calcium
  • Hydrocortisone