BACKGROUND - Laparoscopic adrenalectomy (LA) is the preferred surgical approach for pheochromocytomas. We have investigated the changes in diagnosis, management and outcome of pheochromocytomas treated since the widespread advent of LA.
METHODS - Data were collected retrospectively from 96 patients with pheochromocytomas that had been surgically treated at three tertiary referral centers.
RESULTS - There were 53 females. Mean age was 47 years (10-81). Tumors were found incidentally in 40% of patients. Of the 96 patients, 12 (13%) had familial syndromes. CT or MRI localized the adrenal lesion in all patients. MIBG scans obtained from 32 patients were concordant with the CT/MRI in 19, were false negative in 9 and misleading in 1, and altered management in only 3 patients. Mean tumor size was 5.6 cm (1.8-17). There were 92 adrenal pheochromocytomas and 9 paragangliomas. Laparoscopy was successful in 67 of 74 (91%) patients, with 20 of 67 (30%) having tumors of 6 cm or greater in size. Conversions to open procedures were performed in patients with 4 left, 2 right pheochromocytomas and 1 paraganglioma. Of the patients, 22 had an open procedure due to suspicion of malignancy or large tumors. Malignancy was observed in 4 of 92 (4.3%) pheochromocytomas and 4 of 9 (44%) paragangliomas. Average follow-up was 22 months (1-122). There were seven recurrences. Postoperative biochemical tests available in 64 patients were normal in 90%.
CONCLUSIONS - The diagnosis of pheochromocytoma was made incidentally in 40% of patients. MIBG is not necessary for unilateral non-hereditary pheochromocytomas localized by CT/MRI. LA is possible with excellent results in most patients, including for treatment of lesions 6 cm or greater in size with no signs of invasion. Laparoscopy should be used cautiously for paragangliomas because of a high rate of malignancy.