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Open Access Review

Three uncommon adrenal incidentalomas: a 13-year surgical pathology review

Rani Kanthan13*, Jenna-Lynn Senger1 and Selliah Kanthan2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

2 Department of Surgery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

3 Room 2868 G-Wing, Royal University Hospital, 103 Hospital Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 0 W8, Canada

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World Journal of Surgical Oncology 2012, 10:64  doi:10.1186/1477-7819-10-64

Published: 27 April 2012



The discovery of adrenal incidentalomas due to the widespread use of sophisticated abdominal imaging techniques has resulted in an increasing trend of adrenal gland specimens being received in the pathology laboratory. In this context, we encountered three uncommon adrenal incidentalomas.

The aim of this manuscript is to report in detail the three index cases of adrenal incidentalomas in the context of a 13-year retrospective surgical pathology review.


The three index cases were investigated and analyzed in detail with relevant review of the English literature as available in PubMed and Medline. A 13-year retrospective computer-based histopathological surgical review was conducted in our laboratory and the results were analyzed in the context of evidence-based literature on adrenal incidentalomas.


A total of 94 adrenal specimens from incidentalomas were identified, accounting for 0.025% of all surgical pathology cases. In all 76.6% were benign and 23.4% were malignant. A total of 53 females (56.4%) and 41 males (43.6%) aged 4 to 85 years were identified. The benign lesions included cortical adenoma (43.1%), pheochromocytoma (29.3%) and inflammation/fibrosis/hemorrhage (8.3%). Metastatic neoplasms were the most common malignant lesions (50%) followed by primary adrenocortical carcinomas (31.8%) and neuroblastoma (13.6%). These cases were discovered as adrenal incidentalomas that led to surgical exploration.

The three index cases of adrenal incidentalomas with unusual pathologies were encountered that included (a) adrenal ganglioneuroma, (b) periadrenal schwannoma and (c) primary adrenal pleomorphic leiomyosarcoma. These cases are discussed, with a literature and clinicopathological review.


Adrenal lesions are uncommon surgical specimens in the pathology laboratory. However, higher detection rates of adrenal incidentalomas aided by the ease of laparoscopic adrenalectomy has resulted in increased adrenal surgical specimens leading to unsuspected diagnostic and management dilemmas. Accurate pathological identification of common and uncommon adrenal incidentalomas is essential for optimal patient management.

Adrenal incidentaloma; Adrenal ganglioneuroma; Periadrenal schwannoma; Primary adrenal pleormorphic leiomyosarcoma