There are two adrenal glands in the body, one on top of each kidney. These glands produce a variety of hormones that affect almost all of the body's functions.
An adrenal biopsy may be done when an abnormal growth or mass is seen in one, or rarely both, of the adrenal glands. This growth or mass may be a tumor or an infection. The adrenal glands can usually be seen only during special X-ray tests, such as an abdominal CT scan.
There are two ways to do an adrenal biopsy.
With the first method, a healthcare professional inserts a needle through the skin of the back into the adrenal gland, while he or she looks at live images from a CT scan or other X-ray to guide the direction of the needle. Local anesthesia is used to prevent the person from feeling pain. A medicine to relax the person may also be given if needed.
Once a tissue sample has been obtained, the needle is removed, and a bandage is placed over the puncture site.
An adrenal biopsy may also be done using surgery, under general anesthesia. A cut is made into the back or abdomen, and the surgeon looks at the gland directly. A piece of the gland can then be removed and sent to the lab. The lab often analyzes the piece of tissue while the person is still asleep. If the tissue turns out to be cancer, the surgeon can proceed to take out the gland immediately to avoid a second operation in the future.
Because preparation for this procedure can vary, a person should ask his or her healthcare professional for instructions.
Tabers Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, F.A.Davis, 1993
Illustrated Guide to Diagnostic Tests, Springhouse, 1998
Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and laboratory Tests, Kathleen Pagana and Timothy Pagana, 1998