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Right Posterior Retroperitoneoscopic Adrenalectomy (PRA)



So posterior retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy was really popularized by Martin Waltz in - in Germany, and I spent some time working with him in Germany. It's now becoming a more common technique in the United States. It's been used for the last at least 15-20 years almost now at select centers in Europe. We've been using it for almost 8 years here at Yale, and we were one of the early adopters.

This patient had subclinical Cushing's syndrome. She had an elevated urinary cortisol as well as had failed a dexamethasone suppression test - a 1 milli - milligram, low-dose dexamethasone suppression test twice. She had signs and symptoms that were consistent with slight cortisol overproduction, and this is her CT scan. So as you can see, on the right side, you have a homogeneous mass that measures about 4 centimeters. She had a previous MRI, and it actually showed some interval - increase in the size of the tumor.

So this particular case was relatively straightforward. There was a couple of modification to the technique; usually, I identify and ligate the right adrenal vein from the medial side, meaning towards the muscle, but the way the tumor was lying - I released the superior attachments first such that I then could get good visualization of the adrenal vein, which was - which was really the very last part of the operation where the adrenal vein was clipped, which was then done from the lateral side, meaning the - the liver side.


So we're doing a right posterior retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy. As you can see, the patient is in the prone position, intubated, all the paddings to make sure she doesn't have any neurovascular injuries during the operation. She's on what's called an Andrew Frame and the Cloward Saddle, so the key is to try to make sure that her back is in a flat position. Her legs are down here. She has a Foley catheter in place.

So we're marking out - so this is the midline of her back here - the lumbar spine. This is the iliac crest. This is the paraspinous muscle that goes all the way up here, and here I marked out the 11th and the 12th rib. So the 10 millimeter port is going to be right underneath the ribs, so I'm feeling for the rib right there. And then we're going to make a 10 millimeter incision right here, and then the 5 millimeter incision is going to be about here and the other 5 millimeter incision here. So the adrenal gland is going to be located up here, so it's important when you place these ports that, especially for the 5 millimeter port, that you have a little angle up towards the adrenal. So you don't want to place them straight in (90°) but rather about 30° like so. And this port points towards adrenal, so this is - is an about 30 degree angle as well. So we're starting.


Incision. So this incision is done about 5 millimeters below that rib, and I need to make it big enough so I can fit my finger. And then so I'm feeling for the rib right there. Alright, so that's a perfect location. So now I'm getting down through the retroperitoneal layers here. Just need to go a little deeper - and I will be deep.

Okay, so this is all done by feel - and it's important to go straight down, but then - now I got my finger in here, so point it up towards the adrenal gland. I can feel for the edge of the paraspinous muscle. So the 5 millimeter port is going to be in here, and I can do a fair amount of this dissection bluntly with my finger just to break up some of the adhesions here. Okay. So I'll take the Bovie now. So I want to try to put this port as lateral as I can but not into the muscle. So right there - and then this port, again, pointing towards the adrenal gland, and the key is to place this into my finger but without sticking my finger. So this is all done by palpation. So that's perfect right there. So I don't want to put the ports too far in because there's not a lot of working space. So same thing here - okay. Very nice - okay. And then we're going to use this port that has a little balloon, so we always want to check that first. That's for it to keep - stay in place. Okay - so again, placing that because that'll make sure it doesn't move around. Make sure that that's tight there, and then we'll take the port cleaner. Okay. Alright, so I'll take the camera now. Okay, nice.

Okay, so the first order of business again here is just to identify your instruments. So as you can see, now I start seeing the paraspinous muscle, which is exactly what I want to see. So - okay, so the first part of the dissection is just to identify the paraspinous muscle. Then, we start seeing the kidney right here. And then I'm just going to open up a few more of these cells here, so I'm going to switch the camera view around and then just take down some of these attachments here. Sometimes patients with cortisol production can, you know, classically have some obesity. This particular patient is relatively slender, but she also doesn't have massive amount of cortisol overproduction.

So as you can see, I'm just mobilizing the superior pole of the kidney right here, coming around on each side. Okay, so I got that quite, quite well done, so now I have the retroperitoneal space mobilized. So now we're going to switch that camera into the lateral 5 port, so let's clean that up. Alright, so - you got a great view here now. So I want you to do that same thing when I come in and out - just when I come in and out - yeah. Yep. So we do a whole lot of dissection here on the kidney without even seeing the adrenal in order to mobilize the entire superior pole. Okay, now we start - just going to move that over.

Alright, so just show me here a little bit. Alright, so now we're mobilizing the plane towards the liver. Alright, let me move that kidney a little bit there. Alright, just come in and show me here. Alright, so just follow the paraspinous muscle up here. Okay, so come back here. Okay. We just want to stay right here. We're going to mobilize the plane on the liver here a little bit more. Okay, so - alright, so starting to see the tumor right there. Come in and show me there. Alright, so we start seeing the adrenal tumor right there, so we're going to - so the IVC is going to be down here. Let's have some suction now.

Alright, so - okay. So we stay - here you see the edge of the adrenal. So the key is to stay below that so you don't get into the adrenal gland. Okay. Alright, let's switch to suction. Yeah, stay right there. We've got a good view here. Yep, yep, yep. Now, down here is the vena cava, so we're going to stay - yep, you find that mobilized branch. You very gently dissect on top of the IVC here, and I'm sort of moving the tissue and lift it away from the IVC as I do that.


Same thing - and then, now we can start taking all these small vessels going into the adrenal. Alright, come back now. Again, I'm avoiding whenever I can to grab the actual adrenal. You're bumping into me a little bit now, so maybe come back a little bit then - if - let’s change your angle. So now we start to see the mass here. Let's see right down here. I gently lift the tissue. Yeah, come in a little bit. If I can free this up following the muscle, it'll help me move the whole mass medially. Take down some more of these attachments here. Okay. Alright, come back now. Okay, so that's I guess some good progress here, so then - the adrenal vein is going to be up underneath the mass, so I'll patiently follow the IVC up. Again - gentle dissection. If you do have a tear into the IVC, it can be relatively easy fixed with a clip. Come a little closer. The key is to maintain the high CO2 pressure because as soon as you release, the patient bleeds out, so you maintain the pressure and then clip it or suture it or whatever you got to do.

Okay. Alright, I'll start - thinking we're getting up. Can you sneak underneath there? That looks like the vein is going to come up off up there, but we need a little bit more mobilization to do that safely. So, come back. We're going to do a little bit more mobilization on this side here. Okay, so come a little closer here. Okay. So tumor is heading up there. So - come back here. Okay - and swing it along, so switch it all the way up like that. I want to see the top of it. Push this down, Connie - push this down. Alright, this is just to get a little bit more mobilization so we can see the vein better. Okay, so come out, and clean - and let's switch this out. Alright, so we got the mass here, and then I'm just gently going to lift the mass up. And then - alright, so I need you to sneak underneath. Underneath you? Well, I need to see - get a - I need to get an ex - I need to see that from - I need to see the corner there. Yeah. It's too fussy. It's not... Okay. Yeah, stay where we are - don't jump around. Okay, come back a little bit. I don't love that angle yet, so come back - get clean.

So this looks like a typical benign adrenal cortical adenoma. As you can see, it separates nicely. Okay, there's a little normal adrenal above it there, so... Alright, so come back. We're going to flip it around and look at the other side. So show me high up. Okay. Push this down. Push that down right here. Okay, so can you sneak in under - so you got to figure out a way to sneak in underneath and show me the corner there. Alright, so stay right there - now don't give up on this view. You can let go now, Connie. Okay, come back now. Okay, show me over here. Okay. Alright, come - so let's do that again. Let's try to get that... Yeah, so I need to see that. Alright, so. So - so where is the IVC heading, you know? I just want to make sure I'm not pulling up the whole IVC. So, you know, I want to sort of come here, right? But - where - where is the - so can you follow this up? Is the edge heading down right there? I think it's sort of heading down right there. Yeah, let's flip it around and see - right over that. Alright, so come back. I need to let go of it. Come back.

Now - okay. So I'm going to do something I don't usually do, but with this particular case, just to delineate - push - push this in - I'm going to mobilize it from superiorly first just to see that vein better. Okay. Okay. Now, we can see the vein better from this angle. Usually, it's easier to see it from the other angle, but her anatomy is such that the vein in this particular case is going to be easier to just do last here. So come back a little bit just because of this nodularity here. Alright, so just slide around. So here is IVC heading down there and adrenal vein heading in right here. Alright, so...

Alright. Alright, so slide that in there. Yep, okay. Yeah, that's good. Yep. Okay. Okay, LigaSure. Your clips are closed. No, they're perfect. Oh. Okay, so come back now. I think we're free. Okay. Alright, I have... Okay. Alright, so we're completely free there.

Alright, let me have another grasper. So again, when I grab the - the gland, I never - I don't want to grab the tumor. I just grab the fat around it, so switch that over. I'll take an Endo Catch. Slide it in there. Push down on it - the angle - yep, there we go - beautiful. Okay now - yeah, okay. Okay. Alright, the gas off and all the - gas off, please. Hold this. Yep. Okay. Alright, lights on. Get this out. Okay, so get rid of all that stuff. There we go. Alright, so right adrenal for permanent.


So here is the right adrenal vein. Right, so we're ligating the right adrenal vein here. Now we'll do the LigaSure, so hold it. Now I'm just going to ligate that. Alright, so now the IVC is being flushed out. Okay. Alright, come out.


So at the end of the case, now we're just checking for hemostasis as well as those clips on the IVC. All good - just a little bit of bleeding from the muscle there. So here's the completed adrenalectomy on the right side. So her right adrenal vein just came a little bit more lateral, so it was actually easier to ligate it from the lateral side (ie, the liver side) as opposed to the muscle side - but here, you see that IVC is completely dissected out. You had the two clips on the - on the adrenal vein sitting right there, and the entire adrenal gland is removed. Alright, we're all done.

So as you can see, this was right posterior retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy for about a 4 centimeter right adrenal tumor. So, posterior retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy has several advantages versus traditional laparoscopic transabdominal approaches. As you can see, the dissection is more direct - as you put in the ports, you get right on top of the kidney and can dissect out the adrenal, so you don't need to - as you have to do it laparoscopically - dissect out and mobilize the entire liver on the right side and on the left side the spleen and the pancreatic tail. It's especially advantageous in patients that have had previous abdominal operations and have a lot of adhesions, and you can stay in the retroperitoneum away from those adhesions. Another advantage is for bilateral tumors. So she can see, the operation is - is fast. It's remarkable how little pain the patients have compared to laparoscopic procedures. So whenever possible, our preferred technique here at Yale is through the posterior retroperitoneoscopic approach because of less pain for the patient, swifter operation. As you can see, we're doing 3 adrenalectomies today, and we'll be done just after lunch. The laparoscopic transabdominal adrenalectomy is still a good operation, and it's particularly used for larger tumors where the retroperitoneal space is too small to have good mobility.


In terms of training for this technique, many endocrine surgery fellowships around the country offer this technique, so that's a great way to learn posterior approaches to the adrenal gland. Spending some time in a proctoring setting is always a possibility. If a surgeon has significant experience with laparoscopic surgery, the learning curve is - is pretty quick. It does require some new anatomical thinking and - and getting used to working in the - in a very small space. After having done 10 to 20 of these operations, I think most well-trained laparoscopic endocrine surgeons can adopt this technique, and the learning curve flattens out.

In terms of outcomes, most published studies shows similar outcomes in terms of complication rates compared to transabdominal surgery - but clearly, the operative length is shorter, and it seems like the patient has less pain and returns faster to work postoperatively.