Keck School of Medicine of USC - University of Southern California
Department of Surgery
Department links
Home Physicians Locations Education Society of Graduate Surgeons Contact Us Divisions and Institutes
Upper GI and General Surgery
image map Home Faculty and Staff Hospitals and Offices Education/Fellowships Make an Appointment
Upper G.I. Surgery Endocrine Surgery Breast Center Bariatric Surgery General Surgery Hernia Institute Robotic Surgery
Gastroparesis Institute Sarcoma / Melanoma Retroperitoneal Sarcoma Surgery Esophageal Cancer LINX Device
Patient Guides & Information Videos Contact Us

Endocrine Surgery

Adrenal Tumors

Cortisol producing tumors or Cushing’s syndrome

  • What is Cushing’s syndrome?
    • Cushing’s syndrome is the term used when there is an abnormal, very high level of cortisol in the blood.
    • Cushing’s disease refers to tumors of the pituitary gland (in your brain) and comprises about 70% of patients
    • Cushing’s syndrome can be caused by an adrenal tumor (10%), ectopic tumor (most commonly in the lung) (10%), or from ingesting excessive amounts of steroids.

  • What are the signs and symptoms?
    • Signs: high blood pressure, diabetes, moon facies (round facial shape), buffalo hump (mound of fat at the back of the neck), stretch marks, abnormal hair growth.
    • Symptoms: easy bruising, fatigue, weight gain (particularly around the mid-section), , leg swelling, mood swings, irregular periods, muscle weakness.
    • You can have a tumor that produces smaller amounts of cortisol so as not to cause any obvious, overt symptoms. 

  • How is it diagnosed?
    • Diagnosis is made by a series of blood tests and imaging. There is no role for needle biopsy and is contraindicated.

  • What is the treatment?
    • Treatment depends on the source of the cortisol production.
    • For unilateral tumors of the adrenal gland, treatment is laparoscopic removal of the inciting adrenal gland.

  • Will I be off all my high blood pressure medication after the surgery? Will my diabetes get better? Will I go back to looking like I did a few years ago?
    • It may take 1-2 years, but most patients return to the medical and physical state that existed before they had the tumor. If your diabetes and high blood pressure were new and directly related to the tumor then they will most likely get better. Same as your physical appearance. However, your body needs time to reregulate itself so these changes are not going to happen overnight.

  • Will I need to take medication after surgery?
    • You will need to be on steroids after your surgery for 6-18 months. Your endocrinologist will slowly wean you off from the steroid medication.

  • Do I need regular follow-up visits?
    • Yes. You will return for your post-op visit 1-2 weeks after surgery and should follow-up with your surgeon during the first two years after surgery.
    • You will have more regular follow-up with your endocrinologist to help manage your medications and monitor your blood tests.


Share this page:
Call us for an Appointment (323) 865-3918



University of Southern California
Upper G.I. and General Surgery

1450 San Pablo Street
Healthcare Consultation Center 4
Suite 6200
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Phone: (323) 865-3918
Fax: (323) 865-3539

Home Divisions Physicians Locations Contact Us Education Keck School of Medicine of USC University of Southern California