Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Your Adrenal Surgery
How long does the operation take?
Surgery itself usually lasts three to five hours. However, it generally takes five to six hours from the time you leave the pre-op area until you arrive in the recovery room. You will be unable to see your family for an additional two hours, the period most people are in the recovery room.
How long will I be in the recovery room after surgery is done?
Generally, you will be in the recovery room for two hours. This may be longer depending on how readily available are the rooms on the ward.
What kind of room will I go to after the recovery room?
Most of our patients recover on the ward, which has nurses specialized in the care of patients with adrenal tumors. Often, patients’ families are able to stay with them in their rooms.
Will I need to be in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)?
Rarely do patients need to go to the ICU after routine adrenal surgery. If the patient has underlying medical problems, or if the operation is complicated, the patient may need to be in the recovery room for several days after surgery. This enables us to closely monitor your vital signs and overall condition.
What are the potential complications of this surgery?
All surgical procedures have inherent risks. Obviously, we would not perform your operation if we felt that the risks of surgery out-weighed the benefits. During your initial meeting and consultation, we will discuss the potential complications of bleeding, infection, injury to surrounding tissues (i.e. kidney, intestines, liver, spleen, pleura), the need for further procedures, blood clots, and the risks of anesthesia (heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and death) . The need for long-term steroid hormonal replacement therapy is always a possibility.
What can I do before surgery to be optimally prepared?
It is important to refrain from aspirin or aspirin-like compounds (i.e. Motrin™, Advil™, ibuprofen) for at least one week before surgery. The day before your operation, you may be instructed to begin a liquid diet and take a bottle of Fleets™ phosphosoda, depending upon the anticipated extent of the operation. Also, you may need to take special blood pressure medications for a few weeks before your operation – this is most common in patients with pheochromocytomas.
What medications will I need when I go home?
At time of discharge, you will be given prescriptions for pain medications and stool softeners, if necessary. You may need steroid hormone replacement medications and blood pressure medications.
What limitations will I have after I go home?
During your first week at home you should take it real easy. Presence of pain should be the guide to limiting your activities. After one week, you should gradually be able to increase the level of your activity until returning to work six weeks after open kidney surgery. During this period you should refrain from vigorous exercise and lift no more than ten pounds at a time.
Deciding When to Schedule Your Adrenalectomy
Many patients have pre-existing obligations and commitments when their adrenal tumor is diagnosed. The following information is being supplied to help you decide when is the most optimal time for your operation.
You should plan on being in the hospital for one to two days for laparoscopic surgery and four to five days (including the day of surgery) for open surgery.
Time off work
Most people recover quite rapidly from their surgery. Some begin working after only a few days or weeks. Nonetheless, because recovery can be variable, you should forewarn your employer that you will be absent from your job for two to three weeks after laparoscopic surgery and for six weeks after open adrenal surgery. During this period you should refrain from vigorous exercise and lift no more than ten pounds at a time.
Preparations for surgery
One to two weeks before your operation you will need to meet with the anesthesiologists at The University of Chicago. At that same time, you will be given the opportunity to donate blood to be used, if necessary, at the time of surgery. The day before surgery you may be placed on a clear liquid diet and given a laxative, in order to clean out the intestines. You may need to take special blood pressure medications for several weeks before surgery, most commonly in patients with pheochromocytomas.
Because of the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), it is prudent to wait at least three weeks after surgery before flying in an airplane. Otherwise, the major limitations to travel involve your comfort with traveling.