Original Article

Endocrine Pathology

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 173-181

First online:

Fine needle aspiration biopsy of the adrenal gland: Cytological features and clinical applications

  • Kenneth C. SuenAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, Vancouver General Hospital
  • , Norman H. ChanAffiliated withSt. Paul’s Hospital (NHC), University of British Columbia

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The ability to visualize the adrenal glands with modern imaging techniques has improved our detection of small adrenal masses. In cancer patients, metastatic tumors to the adrenal glands are common, but not all adrenal masses are metastases. Percutaneous fine needle aspiration biopsy can be used in distinguishing metastatic malignancies to the adrenal glands from primary adrenal lesions. In our series we achieved a success rate of 86% in obtaining cellular material for diagnosis. A diagnosis of metastatic malignancy obviates the need for surgical intervention and is essential for staging and therapeutic planning. Primary adrenal cortical masses with benign cytology and under 5 cm in size can be managed conservatively with follow-up scans; those with atypical cytology or greater than 5 cm in size warrant surgical exploration. Adrenalectomy is the treatment of choice for any adrenal tumor associated with endocrine abnormality, irrespective of tumor size and cytology.