Limitations of size as a criterion in the evaluation of adrenal tumors

Carlton C. Barnett, Datla G. Varma, Adel K. El-Naggar, Alan P.B. Dackiw, Geoffrey A. Porter, A. Scott Pearson, Andrzej P. Kudelka, Robert F. Gagel, Douglas B. Evans, Jeffrey E. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Background. Size has been considered to be the single best predictor of malignancy in adrenal neoplasms that have been identified incidentally. However, small adrenal cortical cancers have been reported from multiple centers. Methods. We retrospectively evaluated the value of tumor size and other clinical parameters in the prediction of the presence of adrenal malignancy. Results. The records of 117 patients who underwent evaluation for tumors of the adrenal gland were reviewed. The median tumor size of the adrenal cortical carcinomas (n = 38 carcinomas) was 9.2 cm (range, 1.7-30 cm); 5 cancers (13.5%) were smaller than 5.0 cm. The median overall size of the benign tumors, excluding pheochromocytomas, was 4.0 cm (n = 38 carcinomas); 10 benign tumors (26%) were larger than 5.0 cm. The imaging features of 4 of 5 small adrenal cancers predicted malignancy; the remaining patients had hormonally functioning tumors. The imaging features of 7 of 10 large benign adrenal tumors predicted benign histologic features, including 5 of 5 myelolipomas. Conclusions. Although size remains a good predictor of the histologic features and clinical behavior of adrenal neoplasms, both small adrenal cortical cancers and large benign tumors occur with measurable frequency. High-quality imaging studies may be helpful in the identification of relatively small adrenal cancers and of characteristic benign lesions that may be selectively followed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-983
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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