American Association of Endocrine Surgeons Guidelines for Adrenalectomy: Executive Summary

JAMA Surg. 2022 Oct 1;157(10):870-877. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2022.3544.


Importance: Adrenalectomy is the definitive treatment for multiple adrenal abnormalities. Advances in technology and genomics and an improved understanding of adrenal pathophysiology have altered operative techniques and indications.

Objective: To develop evidence-based recommendations to enhance the appropriate, safe, and effective approaches to adrenalectomy.

Evidence review: A multidisciplinary panel identified and investigated 7 categories of relevant clinical concern to practicing surgeons. Questions were structured in the framework Population, Intervention/Exposure, Comparison, and Outcome, and a guided review of medical literature from PubMed and/or Embase from 1980 to 2021 was performed. Recommendations were developed using Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation methodology and were discussed until consensus, and patient advocacy representation was included.

Findings: Patients with an adrenal incidentaloma 1 cm or larger should undergo biochemical testing and further imaging characterization. Adrenal protocol computed tomography (CT) should be used to stratify malignancy risk and concern for pheochromocytoma. Routine scheduled follow-up of a nonfunctional adrenal nodule with benign imaging characteristics and unenhanced CT with Hounsfield units less than 10 is not suggested. When unilateral disease is present, laparoscopic adrenalectomy is recommended for patients with primary aldosteronism or autonomous cortisol secretion. Patients with clinical and radiographic findings consistent with adrenocortical carcinoma should be treated at high-volume multidisciplinary centers to optimize outcomes, including, when possible, a complete R0 resection without tumor disruption, which may require en bloc radical resection. Selective or nonselective α blockade can be used to safely prepare patients for surgical resection of paraganglioma/pheochromocytoma. Empirical perioperative glucocorticoid replacement therapy is indicated for patients with overt Cushing syndrome, but for patients with mild autonomous cortisol secretion, postoperative day 1 morning cortisol or cosyntropin stimulation testing can be used to determine the need for glucocorticoid replacement therapy. When patient and tumor variables are appropriate, we recommend minimally invasive adrenalectomy over open adrenalectomy because of improved perioperative morbidity. Minimally invasive adrenalectomy can be achieved either via a retroperitoneal or transperitoneal approach depending on surgeon expertise, as well as tumor and patient characteristics.

Conclusions and relevance: Twenty-six clinically relevant and evidence-based recommendations are provided to assist surgeons with perioperative adrenal care.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Adrenalectomy / methods
  • Cosyntropin
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Pheochromocytoma* / surgery
  • Surgeons*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Cosyntropin
  • Hydrocortisone