Acute non-traumatic adrenal haemorrhage—management, pathology and clinical outcomes

Adibah Ali, Gautam Singh, Saba P. Balasubramanian


Background: Acute adrenal haemorrhage is a rare medical emergency. The aim of the series was to study the clinical presentation and management of patients presenting with acute non-traumatic adrenal haemorrhage.
Methods: The records of patients presenting with an acute abdomen secondary to adrenal haemorrhage and treated in a tertiary endocrine surgical unit over a period of 6 years were reviewed.
Results: Of the 11 included patients, there were 4 males and 7 females; the median [range] age at presentation was 58 [27–89] years. All were initially managed conservatively for bleeding, except one who underwent angioembolisation to ensure hemodynamic stability. Two patients underwent percutaneous drainage of persistent collection and suspected sepsis. Biochemical workup showed hyper function with metanephrine excess in 1 patient. Adrenalectomy was performed in 5 patients after a median [range] of 10 [7–11] weeks. Histology showed benign pathology in 2 patients, malignant in 2 patients and necrotic tumour in 1 patient. Two patients died of disseminated metastatic disease at 5 and 2 months after presentation with bleeding. Conservative management in the other 3 patients was successful at a median follow up of 26 [6–66] months.
Conclusions: Acute adrenal haemorrhage is usually associated with an underlying pathology; which may be benign or malignant; functional or non-functional. Initial conservative management is preferred as it allows determination of functional status and elective surgery, if necessary.