Nationwide review of hormonally active adrenal tumors highlights high morbidity in pheochromocytoma

Punam P. Parikh, Gustavo A. Rubio, Josefina C. Farra, John Lew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background Adrenal adenomas are benign tumors often discovered incidentally, and >70% are hormonally inactive. The remaining subset may produce excess aldosterone, cortisol, or catecholamine. Perioperative outcomes after adrenalectomy for such “hormonally active” tumors remain unclear. This study examines in-hospital outcomes after unilateral adrenalectomy for hormonally active tumors. Methods A retrospective review was performed using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (2006-2011) to identify patients undergoing unilateral adrenalectomy for hormonally active or inactive tumors. Malignant adrenal tumors were excluded. Demographics, comorbidities, and postoperative complications were evaluated by univariate analysis, using two-tailed Chi-square and t-tests and multivariate logistic regression. Results Of 27,312 patients who underwent adrenalectomy, 78% (n = 21,279) had hormonally inactive and 22% (n = 6033) had hormonally active adrenal tumors. Among the latter, 65% (n = 4000) had primary hyperaldosteronism (Conn's syndrome), 33% (n = 1996) had hypercortisolism (Cushing's syndrome), and 1.4% (n = 85) had pheochromocytoma. Patients with pheochromocytoma had higher rate of comorbidities including congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease, and malignant hypertension compared with remaining hormonally active tumors (12% versus 4%, 18% versus 11%, 6% versus 2%; P < 0.01). For patients with pheochromocytoma versus other hormonally active tumors, mean length of stay was 5 versus 3 d and total in-hospital cost was $50,000 versus $41,000 (P < 0.01). On multivariate analysis, pheochromocytoma had an independently higher risk for intraoperative blood transfusion (4.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.4-7.2), postoperative cardiac (7.6, 95% CI 2.8-20.2), and respiratory (1.9, 95% CI 1.0-3.3) complications. Conclusions Patients with pheochromocytoma have high rates of preoperative comorbidities, postoperative cardiopulmonary complications, and longer and more costly hospitalizations. Such high-risk patients should undergo appropriate preoperative medical optimization in preparation for adrenalectomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-210
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Adrenal adenoma
  • Adrenalectomy
  • Clinical outcomes
  • Pheochromocytoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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