Objective: To determine the value of ipsilateral adrenalectomy with radical nephrectomy, by investigating the clinical aspects of adrenal involvement and adrenocortical function in patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
Patients and methods: The demographic, clinical and pathological data of adrenal involvement were reviewed in 247 patients with RCC. To evaluate adrenocortical function, 14 patients (adrenalectomy in eight, adrenal-sparing in six) had a rapid adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test before and 2 weeks after surgery.
Results: There was adrenal involvement with RCC in seven of the 247 (2.8%) patients (a solitary adrenal metastatic tumour in four and direct extension into the adrenal gland in three). All adrenal involvement was detectable on abdominal computed tomography before surgery, and these patients had a large primary renal tumour of > pT2 and/or distant metastasis. Plasma cortisol levels declined significantly more in response to the rapid ACTH stimulation test in those treated by adrenalectomy than in those with spared adrenal glands at 2 weeks after surgery (P < 0.05), while there was no significant difference between the groups before surgery.
Conclusions: These results suggest that unconditional ipsilateral adrenalectomy with radical nephrectomy for RCC should be avoidable, and thus preserve the reserve of adrenocortical function, as preoperative imaging, especially thin-slice multidetector helical computed tomography, can detect adrenal involvement with RCC in most cases. Unilateral adrenalectomy might cause an irreversible impairment of the reserve of adrenocortical function.