Objective: The authors sought to determine the optimal surgical management of pheochromocytomas that develop in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2 syndromes. Summary Background data: The performance of empirical bilateral adrenalectomy in patients with MEN 2A or MEN 2B, whether or not they have bilateral pheochromocytomas, is controversial. Methods: The results of unilateral or bilateral adrenalectomy were studied in 58 patients (49 with MEN 2A and 9 with MEN 2B). Recurrence of disease was evaluated by measuring 24-hour urinary excretion rates of catecholamines and metabolites and by computed tomography (CT) scanning. Results: The mean postoperative follow-up was 9.40 years. There was no operative mortality and malignant or extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas were not present. Twenty-three patients with a unilateral pheochromocytoma and a macroscopically normal contralateral gland underwent unilateral adrenalectomy. A pheochromocytoma developed in the remaining gland a mean of 11.87 years after the primary adrenalectomy in 12 (52%) patients. Conversely, 11 (48%) patients did not develop a pheochromocytoma during a mean interval of 5.18 years. In the interval after unilateral adrenalectomy, no patient experienced hypertensive crises or other complications related to an undiagnosed pheochromocytoma. Ten (23%) of 43 patients having both adrenal glands removed (either at a single operation or sequentially) experienced at least one episode of acute adrenal insufficiency or Addisonian crisis, including one patient who died during a bout of influenza. Conclusions: Based on these data, the treatment of choice for patients with MEN 2A or MEN 2B and a unilateral pheochromocytoma is resection of only the involved gland. Substantial morbidity and significant mortality are associated with the Addisonian state after bilateral adrenalectomy.
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