Adrenal hemorrhage and hemorrhagic masses; diagnostic workup and imaging findings

Br J Radiol. 2021 Nov 1;94(1127):20210753. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20210753. Epub 2021 Aug 31.


Adrenal hemorrhage (AH) is a rare condition. It can be traumatic or non-traumatic. Most common causes are septicemia, coagulopathy or bleeding diathesis, and underlying neoplasms. Other reported less common causes of AH are COVID-19 and neonatal stress. Clinical diagnosis of AH is challenging due to its non-specific presentation and occurrence in the setting of acute medical illness. Therefore, most cases are diagnosed incidentally on imaging. Having high clinical suspicion in the proper clinical setting for AH is crucial to avoid life-threatening adrenal insufficiency that occurs in 16-50% of patients with bilateral AH. We discuss the clinical situations that predispose to AH, review the imaging features on different imaging modalities, highlight a variety of clinical cases, imaging features that should be concerning for an underlying neoplasm, and outline the potential role of interventional radiology in management of AH.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adrenal Gland Diseases / physiopathology
  • Adrenal Glands / diagnostic imaging
  • Adrenal Glands / physiopathology
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hemorrhage / physiopathology
  • Humans