Diagnostic dilemmas in enlarged and diffusely hemorrhagic adrenal glands Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Adrenal Gland Diseases
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms
  • Adrenal Glands
  • Hemorrhage


  • We have noted an increasing number of cases of enlarged adrenal glands where the underlying diagnosis was masked by a diffusely hemorrhagic process. We identified from our database 59 cases (32 consults, 27 routine) of adrenal glands with diffuse (>25%) hemorrhage received between 2000 and 2014. Fifty-three adrenalectomies and 6 biopsies were identified. The diagnoses after central review were 41 adrenocortical adenomas, 1 nodular adrenocortical hyperplasia with associated myelolipoma, 1 benign adrenocortical cyst, and 10 nonneoplastic adrenal glands with hemorrhage. A definitive diagnosis for the 6 biopsies was precluded by the sample size. The adrenocortical adenomas (size, 1-13 cm; 25%-95% hemorrhage) showed clear cell change in the neoplastic area (10%-80% of the tumor), 19 showed focal calcification (1 with ossification), 11 showed areas of papillary endothelial hyperplasia, 10 showed scattered lymphoplasmacytic inflammation, 6 showed benign cortical tissue extending beyond the adrenal capsule into soft tissue, 1 showed necrosis in the form of ghost cells, 2 showed lipomatous change, and 6 were associated with incidental benign lesions (1 cortical cyst, 1 schwannoma, and 4 myelolipomas). Twenty-four of the adrenocortical adenomas were consults where the referring pathologist had trouble classifying the lesion. Of the 10 nonneoplastic adrenals (4.5-22 cm; 40%-80% hemorrhage), 2 were consults. In summary, pathologists have difficulties recognizing adrenocortical adenomas in the setting of a massively enlarged and hemorrhagic adrenal gland. Although there is a correlation between adrenocortical malignancy and size, hemorrhage into nonmalignant adrenal glands can result in markedly enlarged adrenals.

publication date

  • July 2016



  • Academic Article



  • eng

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.humpath.2016.02.017

PubMed ID

  • 27001431

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 63

end page

  • 72


  • 53