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Adrenalectomy in Children: What to Expect at Home

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

Your Child's Recovery

Adrenalectomy is surgery to remove one or both adrenal glands. These glands are located above the kidneys.

The doctor took out one or both of your child's adrenal glands through a cut (incision) in the front, side, or back of the torso. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

The area around the cut will feel sore after the surgery. This usually lasts about 1 to 2 weeks. The doctor may prescribe pain medicine for this.

Your child's body can work fine with one healthy adrenal gland. If both adrenal glands were removed or your child's remaining adrenal gland isn't healthy, he or she will take medicine every to replace the hormones that the glands were making.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?

Activity

  • Allow your child's body to heal. Don't let your child move quickly or lift anything heavy until he or she is feeling better.
  • Have your child rest when he or she feels tired.
  • Your child can do his or her normal activities when it feels okay to do so. Many children are able to return to normal activities within 2 to 4 weeks after surgery.
  • Have your child hold a pillow over the incisions when he or she coughs or takes deep breaths. This will support the belly and may help to decrease pain.

Diet

  • Your child can eat a normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • If your child's bowel movements are not regular right after surgery, you can help him or her to avoid constipation and straining. Have your child drink plenty of water. The doctor may suggest fibre, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.

Incision care

  • Your child will have a dressing over the cut (incision). A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If your child has strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • If your child had stitches, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.

Hygiene

  • Your child may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Pat the incision dry. Your child should not swim or take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child has chest pain, is short of breath, or coughs up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has pain that does not get better after he or she takes pain medicine.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Your child is bleeding from the incision.
  • Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.

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.