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Surgical Services & Procedures

Laparoscopic Solid Organ Surgery - Adrenalectomy and Splenectomy

The physicians at Surgical Associates of La Jolla are recognized by their colleagues for their skill in performing laparoscopic procedures. Procedures that once required sizable incisions and extended healing time, such as splenectomy (the removal of the spleen) and adrenalectomy (removal of one or both adrenal glands), can now be performed laparoscopically by our unparalleled surgeons. Because laparoscopic procedures entail relatively small incisions, patients will be left with only discreet, scars and will heal more quickly than was possible in the past. Our surgeons have many years of experience, and exceptionally high volumes, in the laparoscopic removal of the spleen, adrenal glands and other organs. Contact Surgical Associates of La Jolla today to learn more about these solid organ procedures.


A laparoscopic adrenalectomy performed at our San Diego-area surgical practice can help treat - and even eliminate - health problems stemming from hormone imbalances.

About Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands are located above the kidney on the right and left sides. Measuring approximately one-half inch by 3 inches and triangular in shape, each adrenal gland is composed of two distinct sections: the medulla, which is located at the center of the gland, and the outer cortex, which surrounds the medulla.

Though the adrenal glands are typically thought of as a singular gland, its distinct parts allow it to perform two separate functions. The medulla produces two chemicals, both of which serve as a hormone and neurotransmitter: epinephrine and norepinephrine (otherwise known as adrenaline). On the other hand, the cortex produces aldosterone and cortisone, hormones essential to balancing body fluids and electrolytes.

Why would the adrenal gland need to be removed?

As the main function of the adrenal glands is to produce important hormones, an adrenalectomy can help address problems derived from hormone overproduction. There are several indicators of a need for an adrenalectomy, including:

  • A tumor in the medulla causing overproduction of adrenaline, a condition otherwise known as pheochromocytoma. Severe and life threatening variations in blood pressure and heart rate can result from this.
  • A tumor in the cortex that causes it to produce too much aldosterone and/or cortisone
  • Any cancer that develops on one or both adrenal glands


The laparoscopic splenectomy procedure can be performed to help patients avoid complications that arise from a damaged or diseased spleen.

About Your Spleen

The spleen plays an integral role in many processes related to blood. The spleen filters red blood cells, trapping viruses, bacteria, and debris to keep them from causing infection; additionally, the spleen destroys old red blood cells.

Why would the spleen need to be removed?

There are many reasons the spleen may need to be removed with a splenectomy, including:

  • Hypersplenism - Hypersplenism is a condition in which the spleen prematurely destroys large amounts of otherwise healthy red blood cells. The hypersplenism condition can be caused by any number of diseases, including malaria or tuberculosis, but can also develop as a primary disorder. Most, but not all, people suffering from hypersplenism develop an enlarged spleen.
  • ITP - The spleen may inappropriately affect platelets in the blood stream. By a decreasing the platelet count in this condition, bleeding can occur. Removal of the spleen may provide a lasting cure (see below).
  • Rupture - A traumatic incident, such as an auto accident or fall from a great height, can cause the spleen to rupture. A ruptured spleen releases a large amount of blood into the abdominal area, resulting in shock and, in some cases, death. An emergency splenectomy is typically needed.
  • Gastric Cancer - In some cases, gastric cancer can spread to the spleen, requiring it to be removed.

Treating ITP with a Splenectomy

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, is a disease that pits the body's own immune system against platelets in the blood affecting about 200,000 people in the United States. ITP causes antibodies to attach themselves to platelets, marking the platelets to be destroyed by the spleen and, in some cases, the liver. Though there are many treatments that can stop the process of platelet destruction, splenectomy is one of the most reliable and effective. Our surgeons perform laparoscopic splenectomy in a safe, careful manner to address this unique medical condition.