The Adrenal Glands
The adrenals are two small, wedge shaped glands that rest on top of each kidney. The outer
layer, the adrenal cortex, produces hormones such as cortisol. These hormones affect salt and
water balance in the body, the body's response to stress, metabolism, the immune system, and
sexual development and function. The inner layer, the adrenal medulla (muh-duh-luh),
produces hormones such as epinephrine (eh-puh-neh-frun). Also called adrenaline, this
hormone increases blood pressure and heart rate when the body is stressed.
Tumors in the adrenal glands can be cancerous or cause too much hormone in the body. This
can cause problems such as high blood pressure, increased heart rate, excess sweating, and
weakness. Most people can have their adrenal gland taken out with a laparoscope (through small
wounds in their belly or back). Some will require a 3 to 9 inch incision (open approach) to
remove the gland.
You will stay in the hospital overnight and most likely go home the day after surgery. Wear
loose, comfortable clothing.
You may have aching in your shoulders from the gas put in your abdomen during surgery. For
relief, lie flat and put several pillows under your hips. Stay in this position for 5-15 minutes.
The gas pain will go away.
How will I feel after Surgery?
Your throat may be sore when you swallow. This is normal. This can last 1-2 days.
Narcotic pain pills can be constipating. To prevent this problem you may want to take a stool
softener each day that you use narcotic pain pills and until you have your first bowel movement
after your surgery. You may want to start with Peri-Colace®. Take Peri-Colace® (docusate
sodium 50 mg; sennosides 8.6 mg) two tablets, one to two times a day as needed for
constipation. Follow the package directions. Remember to drink plenty of fluids and eat high
fiber foods after surgery.
How do I care for my wound?
Your wound is closed with glue. If you have Steri-strips (pieces of tape) covering the incision,
leave the tape on until your next doctor visit. Curled tape edges may be trimmed with small
scissors. Keep the wound clean and dry. The glue is waterproof. You can shower after 2 days.
Avoid soaking or scrubbing the incision(s) until they are well healed, often about 2 weeks.
Look at your wound daily, check for signs of an infection.
ξ Spreading redness or swelling.
ξ Foul-smelling drainage or pus.
ξ A fever (more than 101 θ F by mouth).
ξ Small areas of bruising at your incision site are to be expected
What about pain?
Expect that your wound will be tender. You will have prescription pain pills to use at home. You
may take Tylenol® instead of the prescription pain pills. You can also use an ice pack to the
incision area which can help reduce both pain and swelling. You can start taking ibuprofen 24
hours after surgery.
When can I eat?
You can eat your normal diet when you get home.
When can I take a bath?
You can shower after 2 days. No swimming or soaking in water for 14 days.
When can I drive?
Do not drive for 1 week after surgery. Do not drive if you are taking prescription pain pills.
When can I exercise?
Do not lift more than 20 pounds. If you have laparoscopic wounds you will be limited for 1-2
weeks. If you have a 3-9 inch wound, you will be limited for 4-6 weeks. Walking is okay and
encouraged. No strenuous activity or activities that include pulling, pushing and twisting until
cleared by your doctor. Sexual activity may be resumed when you feel ready, which may not be
for 2-3 weeks after your surgery.
When can I return to work?
Plan to take 1 week off of work to recover after surgery. If you require an open operation you
may require a longer time to recover (up to 4-6 weeks). We will want you to avoid any heavy
lifting or straining for at least 2 weeks after surgery.
When should I get help?
ξ Pain that does not get better with narcotic pain pills
ξ Signs of infection like spreading redness or swelling, foul-smelling drainage or pus
ξ Temperature greater than 101 θF
ξ Any other symptoms that concern you
How do I contact the doctor if I do not have an emergency?
ξ If your surgery was at UW Hospital and Clinics call (608) 263-7502. This is a 24 hour
ξ If your surgery was at The American Center call (608) 440-6300. This is a 24 hour
ξ Call UW Health Toll free at: 1-800-323-8942. Ask the operator to transfer you to the
facility where you had your surgery.
ξ If your surgery was at Meriter or Madison Surgery Center call (608) 287-2100. This is a
24 hour number.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 9/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5704.