Prevalence of adrenal incidentaloma in a contemporary computerized tomography series

J Endocrinol Invest. 2006 Apr;29(4):298-302. doi: 10.1007/BF03344099.


Adrenal incidentalomas, defined as masses discovered incidentally during imaging investigation of non-adrenal disorders, have become a rather common finding in clinical practice. The prevalence is not well characterized and varies among studies. The aim of the present study was to perform a prospective evaluation of the prevalence of adrenal incidentalomas among subjects undergoing computerized tomography (CT) scan of the chest in a screening program of lung cancer (Tic TAC study) in Piedmont, a region of Northwestern Italy. This evaluation included 520 subjects (382 males and 138 females, aged between 55-82 yr), referred to our hospital from April to December 2001. Twenty-three patients with adrenal masses were identified: 21 adrenal adenomas, 1 myelolipoma, and 1 metastasis of lung cancer. Therefore, the overall prevalence of adrenal lesions was 4.4%, and that of benign adrenal masses was 4.2%. This prevalence is higher than those found in previous CT scan series reported in the literature, probably because of the use of high-resolution CT scanning technology. Another factor that influenced our results is that subject age is skewed towards the decades characterized by a greater occurrence of adrenal masses. The outcome of this study confirms that we are presently able to identify incidentally discovered adrenal masses more often than in early years and that the prevalence of adrenal incidentalomas on CT images is approaching that of autopsy series. The present study provides a reliable estimate of the prevalence of adrenal incidentaloma with currently used CT scanners. Notwithstanding that our subjects were at increased risk of lung cancer, the rate of adrenal metastases was low. We think that the present results can be generalized even if we may disclose the lack of histological diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings*
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*