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Adrenalectomy: Before Your Child's Surgery

Location of the adrenal glands, with detail of the gland's appearance

What is an adrenalectomy?

Adrenalectomy is surgery to remove all or part of one or both adrenal glands. The glands are above the kidneys. They make hormones that affect nearly every organ in the body. These hormones include adrenaline and cortisol. They do many things in the body. For example, they help control blood pressure. They help the body deal with stress. And they control the breakdown of fats and proteins in the liver.

This surgery may be done to remove a tumour that is or isn't cancer. It also may be done for people with Cushing's syndrome, a problem that causes too much cortisol in the body. It may be done to remove a tumour that makes too much adrenaline.

The surgery may be done through a single cut (incision). This is called open surgery. Or your child may have laparoscopic surgery. To do this, the doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other tools through several small cuts.

If your child has laparoscopic surgery, he or she may be able to leave the hospital the next day. With open surgery, your child may stay in the hospital for a few days or longer.

It may be a few weeks or more before your child can return to his or her normal activities.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia. Your doctor will tell you which medicines your child should take or stop before surgery.
  • Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. He or she may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.

The day before surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your child's surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to have your child take his or her medicines on the day of surgery, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow the doctor's instructions about when your child should bathe or shower before the surgery. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush his or her teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
  • Be sure your child has something that reminds him or her of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by the anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take from 1 hour to a few hours.
  • After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery staff will monitor his or her condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.
  • You will probably be able to take your child home the day after a laparoscopic surgery. For open surgery, the hospital stay will be longer.

Going home

  • Expect your child to be sleepy. Encourage extra rest the first day. Most children can be more active on the day after surgery.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when your child can do vigorous exercise. This includes sports, running, and physical education.
  • When you leave the hospital, you will get more information about how to take care of your child at home.
  • The doctor or nurse will tell you when your child can start normal activities again.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for surgery.
  • Your child becomes ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.