Evaluation of endoscopic and traditional open approaches to pheochromocytoma

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Laparoscopic adrenalectomy is an excellent alternative to open surgery, while there are doubts in regard to laparoscopic treatment of pheochromocytoma due to its unsteady intraoperative hemodynamics. The goal of the study was to define optimal surgical approach to pheochromocytoma.


A total of 99 patients with pheochromocytoma were operated from 1990 to 2002. Nine, 28, 40, and 22 patients were operated respectively through laparoscopic (group 1), thoracophrenotomic (group 2), lumbotomic (group 3), and laparotomic (group 4) approaches. Intraoperative parameters including those related with hemodynamic stability were studied. Postoperative analgesic medication, complications, and hospital stay were registered.


Mean operative time was 132 ± 49 min, 104 ± 29 min, 81 ± 30 min, and 129 ± 40 min, respectively, in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4. Thoracophrenotomic approach had a minimal time from starting of adrenal dissection to central adrenal vein crossing on the right side and lumbotomic approach on the left side. Laparoscopy showed longest length of that period on both sides. However, we observed more stable intraoperative dynamics during laparoscopic adrenalectomy in comparison with any traditional open approaches on both sides. Mean blood loss was 178 ± 112 ml, 410 ± 255 ml, 314 ± 163 ml, and 420 ± 398 ml, respectively, in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4. Blood transfusions were required in 0%, 35.7%, 20%, and 13.6% of cases, respectively, in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4. Using laparoscopic approach resulted in significant decrease of prescription of opoids, postoperative hospital stay, and rate of postoperative complications. Among traditional approaches lumbotomy presented better postoperative results due to its less invasive nature.


Laparoscopy is a method of choice to pheochromocytoma in experienced hands. Open approaches are still feasible. Among traditional approaches lumbotomy should be preferred. Thoracophrenotomy can be justified only for major tumors on the right side. Laparotomy is indicated in selected cases of extraadrenal pheochromocytoma.

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