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Free access

Martin Fassnacht, Wiebke Arlt, Irina Bancos, Henning Dralle, John Newell-Price, Anju Sahdev, Antoine Tabarin, Massimo Terzolo, Stylianos Tsagarakis, and Olaf M Dekkers

By definition, an adrenal incidentaloma is an asymptomatic adrenal mass detected on imaging not performed for suspected adrenal disease. In most cases, adrenal incidentalomas are nonfunctioning adrenocortical adenomas, but may also represent conditions requiring therapeutic intervention (e.g. adrenocortical carcinoma, pheochromocytoma, hormone-producing adenoma or metastasis). The purpose of this guideline is to provide clinicians with best possible evidence-based recommendations for clinical management of patients with adrenal incidentalomas based on the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) system. We predefined four main clinical questions crucial for the management of adrenal incidentaloma patients, addressing these four with systematic literature searches: (A) How to assess risk of malignancy?; (B) How to define and manage low-level autonomous cortisol secretion, formerly called ‘subclinical’ Cushing’s syndrome?; (C) Who should have surgical treatment and how should it be performed?; (D) What follow-up is indicated if the adrenal incidentaloma is not surgically removed?

Selected recommendations:

(i) At the time of initial detection of an adrenal mass establishing whether the mass is benign or malignant is an important aim to avoid cumbersome and expensive follow-up imaging in those with benign disease. (ii) To exclude cortisol excess, a 1mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test should be performed (applying a cut-off value of serum cortisol ≤50nmol/L (1.8µg/dL)). (iii) For patients without clinical signs of overt Cushing’s syndrome but serum cortisol levels post 1mg dexamethasone >138nmol/L (>5µg/dL), we propose the term ‘autonomous cortisol secretion’. (iv) All patients with ‘(possible) autonomous cortisol’ secretion should be screened for hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus, to ensure these are appropriately treated. (v) Surgical treatment should be considered in an individualized approach in patients with ‘autonomous cortisol secretion’ who also have comorbidities that are potentially related to cortisol excess. (vi) In principle, the appropriateness of surgical intervention should be guided by the likelihood of malignancy, the presence and degree of hormone excess, age, general health and patient preference. (vii) Surgery is not usually indicated in patients with an asymptomatic, nonfunctioning unilateral adrenal mass and obvious benign features on imaging studies. We provide guidance on which surgical approach should be considered for adrenal masses with radiological findings suspicious of malignancy. Furthermore, we offer recommendations for the follow-up of patients with adrenal incidentaloma who do not undergo adrenal surgery, for those with bilateral incidentalomas, for patients with extra-adrenal malignancy and adrenal masses and for young and elderly patients with adrenal incidentalomas

Open access

Jacqueline Dinnes, Irina Bancos, Lavinia Ferrante di Ruffano, Vasileios Chortis, Clare Davenport, Susan Bayliss, Anju Sahdev, Peter Guest, Martin Fassnacht, Jonathan J Deeks, and Wiebke Arlt


Adrenal masses are incidentally discovered in 5% of CT scans. In 2013/2014, 81 million CT examinations were undertaken in the USA and 5 million in the UK. However, uncertainty remains around the optimal imaging approach for diagnosing malignancy. We aimed to review the evidence on the accuracy of imaging tests for differentiating malignant from benign adrenal masses.


A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted.


We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials, Science Citation Index, Conference Proceedings Citation Index, and ZETOC (January 1990 to August 2015). We included studies evaluating the accuracy of CT, MRI, or 18F-fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG)-PET compared with an adequate histological or imaging-based follow-up reference standard.


We identified 37 studies suitable for inclusion, after screening 5469 references and 525 full-text articles. Studies evaluated the accuracy of CT (n=16), MRI (n=15), and FDG-PET (n=9) and were generally small and at high or unclear risk of bias. Only 19 studies were eligible for meta-analysis. Limited data suggest that CT density >10HU has high sensitivity for detection of adrenal malignancy in participants with no prior indication for adrenal imaging, that is, masses with ≤10HU are unlikely to be malignant. All other estimates of test performance are based on too small numbers.


Despite their widespread use in routine assessment, there is insufficient evidence for the diagnostic value of individual imaging tests in distinguishing benign from malignant adrenal masses. Future research is urgently needed and should include prospective test validation studies for imaging and novel diagnostic approaches alongside detailed health economics analysis.

Free access

Maralyn R Druce, Vasantha M Muthuppalaniappan, Benjamin O'Leary, Shern L Chew, William M Drake, John P Monson, Scott A Akker, Michael Besser, Anju Sahdev, Andrea Rockall, Soumil Vyas, Satya Bhattacharya, Matthew Matson, Daniel Berney, and Ashley B Grossman

The authors apologise for an error in the author list of the article titled above published in the journal, volume 162 on page 971. R H Reznek should be the penultimate author. The full list of authors and their affiliations for this article is as follows:

Maralyn R Druce1, Vasantha M Muthuppalaniappan1, Benjamin O'Leary1, Shern L Chew1, William M Drake1, John P Monson1, Scott A Akker1, Michael Besser1, Anju Sahdev2, Andrea Rockall2, Soumil Vyas3, Satya Bhattacharya3, Matthew Matson2, Daniel Berney4, R H Reznek2 and Ashley B Grossman1

Departments of 1Endocrinology, 2Radiology, 3Surgery and 4Histopathology, Barts and the London Medical School, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London EC1A 7BE, UK.

Free access

Maralyn R Druce, Vasantha M Muthuppalaniappan, Benjamin O'Leary, Shern L Chew, William M Drake, John P Monson, Scott A Akker, Michael Besser, Anju Sahdev, Andrea Rockall, Soumil Vyas, Satya Bhattacharya, Matthew Matson, Daniel Berney, and Ashley B Grossman


Preoperative localisation of insulinoma improves cure rate and reduces complications, but may be challenging.


To review diagnostic features and localisation accuracy for insulinomas.


Cross-sectional, retrospective analysis.


A single tertiary referral centre.


Patients with insulinoma in the years 1990–2009, including sporadic tumours and those in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes.


Patients were identified from a database, and case notes and investigation results were reviewed. Tumour localisation by computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), octreotide scanning, endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and calcium stimulation was evaluated.

Main outcome measure(s)

Insulinoma localisation was compared to histologically confirmed location following surgical excision.


Thirty-seven instances of biochemically and/or histologically proven insulinoma were identified in 36 patients, of which seven were managed medically. Of the 30 treated surgically, 25 had CT (83.3%) and 28 had MRI (90.3%), with successful localisation in 16 (64%) by CT and 21 (75%) by MRI respectively. Considered together, such imaging correctly localised 80% of lesions. Radiolabelled octreotide scanning was positive in 10 out of 20 cases (50%); EUS correctly identified 17 lesions in 26 patients (65.4%). Twenty-seven patients had calcium stimulation testing, of which 6 (22%) did not localise, 17 (63%) were correctly localised, and 4 (15%) gave discordant or confusing results.


Preoperative localisation of insulinomas remains challenging. A pragmatic combination of CT and especially MRI predicts tumour localisation with high accuracy. Radionuclide imaging and EUS were less helpful but may be valuable in selected cases. Calcium stimulation currently remains useful in providing an additional functional perspective.