Endocrine Surgery

The endocrine system is made up organs which secrete various chemicals in the body. Depending on the organ, these chemicals have the purpose of regulating nearly every metabolic function that occurs in our bodies. Just as with any organ, endocrine organs can develop diseases which effect their function, and therefore our overall health. These diseases can be of a benign nature, or they can be malignant (cancerous). Benign diseases of the endocrine organs can often be managed by medical therapy. An example would be giving thyroid hormone to a patient with an underactive thyroid gland. Some benign diseases require surgical care however. For example, a patient with an overactive parathyroid gland may have difficulty regulating calcium in his/her body, and therefore, the overactive gland must be removed in order to restore control in the system. Diseases of the endocrine organs can also be malignant. In these conditions, surgical resection is required. As with all cancers, the earlier a cancer is detected, the better the chance for cure. The endocrine organs which most often develop diseases requiring surgery are the thyroid gland and the parathyroid glands. When a problem in the thyroid or parathyroid glands is detected, various diagnostic tests will be ordered to further characterize the abnormality. These tests may include Ultrasound, CT or nuclear medicine scans. The results of these tests may lead to a recommendation of needle biopsy or excision of a portion of the gland. Operations on these glands require an incision on the neck of variable size, depending on the disease to be treated. The length of hospitalization is generally one night, with return to normal activity within four to seven days.

The pancreas and the adrenal glands are also endocrine organs, which have a wide variety of functions, ranging from blood sugar regulation to stress hormone production. Abnormalities detected in these organs are also investigated thoroughly through blood tests, radiographic studies, and sometimes needle biopsies. Reasons for which a person would require surgery on one of these organs would include cancer, enlarging benign tumors or cysts, or in some cases, abnormal functioning of the organ. Depending on the disease process, a laparoscopic or open abdominal approach may be chosen. Operations on the pancreas or adrenal glands are by necessity more extensive, and may require longer hospitalizations, depending on the nature operation.

All content copyright 2010, Alan F. Jacks, MD, PA