Laparoscopic resection for malignant adrenal tumors is controversial, because they are rare and limited data exist in the literature.
Laparoscopic adrenalectomy for malignant adrenal tumors is safe and effective.
Patients and Methods
Twenty-three patients who had a laparoscopic approach for suspected and unsuspected malignant adrenal tumors were studied retrospectively. The adrenal mass was suspected to be metastatic if the patient had a history of previous extra-adrenal primary malignancy and/or positive fine-needle aspiration cytologic findings. A primary adrenal cancer was suspected if there were positive fine-needle aspiration cytologic findings and/or a malignant adrenal imaging phenotype.
Main Outcome Measures
(1) Margins of tumor resection, (2) tumor recurrence (locoregional, port site, and distant), and (3) disease-free survival.
Twenty-three patients (15 men and 8 women) had 24 laparoscopic procedures (20 adrenalectomies, 3 biopsies, and 1 diagnostic laparoscopy). Permanent histologic specimens in the 23 patients showed 5 adrenocortical cancers, 1 undifferentiated adrenal cancer, 13 adrenal metastases, 2 lymphomas, and 2 cases with no evidence of tumor. Clinically suspected adrenal metastases were true positive in 19 patients (83%). The sensitivity of fine-needle aspiration cytology was 57% (n = 7). Only 1 of 6 patients with primary adrenal cancer was suspected to have a malignant tumor preoperatively. The tumor resection margin was negative in all adrenalectomies. There were 3 locoregional recurrences (2 local and 1 lymph node metastasis) in the 6 patients with primary adrenal cancer, no port site recurrences, and 4 distant recurrences in 13 patients with metastatic adrenal tumors. The disease-free survival was 65% at a mean follow-up time of 3.3 years (range, 1-7 years).
A laparoscopic approach in patients with suspected adrenal metastasis can be both diagnostic and therapeutic, and achieves complete tumor resection. In contrast, laparoscopic adrenalectomy for clinically unsuspected adrenocortical cancer is associated with a high recurrence rate. Furthermore, preoperative fine-needle aspiration cytology for the evaluation of suspected malignant adrenal tumors is unreliable.