Computed Tomography in the Management of Adrenal Tumors: Does Size Still Matter?

J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2017 Jul/Aug;41(4):628-632. doi: 10.1097/RCT.0000000000000578.


Objective: We sought to evaluate computed tomography (CT) imaging as a predictor of adrenal tumor pathology.

Methods: A retrospective review was conducted of patients who underwent unilateral adrenalectomy for an adrenal mass between January 2005 and July 2015. Tumors were classified as benign, indeterminate, or malignant based on preoperative CT findings.

Results: Of 697 patients who underwent unilateral adrenalectomy, 216 met the inclusion criteria. Pathology was benign in 88.4%, indeterminate in 2.3%, and malignant in 9.3%, with a median tumor diameter of 2.7 cm (interquartile range, 1.7-4.1 cm) and 9.5 cm (interquartile range, 7.1-12 cm) in the benign and malignant groups, respectively (P < 0.001). Of the tumors with benign features on CT, 100% (143/143) had benign final pathology.

Conclusions: Imaging characteristics of adrenal tumors on CT scan predict benign pathology 100% of the time. Regardless of size, when interpreted as benign on CT scan, laparoscopic adrenalectomy, if technically feasible, should be the technique used when surgery is offered, or close surveillance may be a safe alternative.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / surgery
  • Adrenal Glands / diagnostic imaging
  • Adrenal Glands / surgery
  • Adrenalectomy
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*