Adrenal tumors are mostly encountered as incidentalomas in patients undergoing imaging not performed for suspected adrenal disease; although the majority are benign and nonfunctioning, malignant tumors and functioning tumors need to be excluded. The purpose of this review is to highlight recent advances in the evaluation of adrenal tumors.
As a consequence of increased use of technologically improved imaging techniques, the detection of adrenal incidentalomas has continued to increase. The vast majority of adrenal tumors are adrenocortical adenomas. To discriminate malignant from benign tumors and to identify clinically relevant functioning tumors, necessitating therapeutic intervention, adrenal tumors are best evaluated with unenhanced computed tomography (CT) attenuation and 1 mg dexamethasone overnight suppression test. An unenhanced CT attenuation value of 10 Hounsfield units or less excludes adrenocortical carcinoma and pheochromocytoma. Testing for hyperaldosteronism should be performed in hypertensive and/or hypokalemic patients, sex hormones, and steroid precursors in patients with clinical features suggestive of adrenocortical carcinoma. In patients with active extraadrenal malignancy and a single adrenal lesion without suspicion for metastasis elsewhere, CT-guided biopsy can be considered to rule out metastatic disease.
All patients with an adrenal tumor and without a prior history of cancer should be initially evaluated by unenhanced CT attenuation and 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test, and additional hormone testing when indicated.
Current opinion in oncology. 2019 Mar 05 [Epub ahead of print]
Eleonora P M Corssmit, Olaf M Dekkers
Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology.