Purpose: Routine removal of the ipsilateral adrenal gland in patients with renal cell carcinoma who undergo nephrectomy has been a matter of dispute. In a retrospective study we screened for subgroups of patients with renal cell carcinoma from a large single center patient population who may have benefited from ipsilateral adrenalectomy.
Materials and methods: Radical nephrectomy was performed in 1635 patients at a single institution between 1980 and 2000. A total of 1010 patients underwent radical nephrectomy plus ipsilateral adrenalectomy, whereas in 625 no simultaneous adrenalectomy was performed. Numerous clinical and histopathological parameters were investigated by univariate and multivariate statistical methods for their predictive value in regard to cancer specific survival.
Results: Metastases in the adrenal gland were found in 5.5% of patients (56 of 1010) undergoing nephrectomy with adrenalectomy. Of 30 patients with adrenal metastasis and preoperative computerized tomography/magnetic resonance imaging 23 were found to have histological evidence of cancer, approaching a false-negative rate of 23.3%. All patients with false-negative computerized tomography/magnetic resonance imaging had a primary tumor of greater than 4 cm. Patients with adrenal metastases predominately had pT3 or greater tumor stage (82%). Cancer specific survival rates (75% vs 73% for adrenalectomy vs no adrenalectomy) and postoperative complications rates (7% vs 8%) did not differ significantly between the 2 groups. The prognosis in patients with a solitary adrenal metastasis (18 of 56) was more favorable than in patients with additional metastatic sites (38 of 56).
Conclusions: Adrenal metastases from primary renal cell carcinoma were found significantly more often in patients with advanced tumor stages. Ipsilateral adrenalectomy should be recommended for all resectable renal cell carcinoma with a primary tumor of greater than 4 cm or with nonorgan confined tumor stages (T3 or greater) since a false-negative rate of about 20% can be expected with current imaging techniques.