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Adrenal Services at CMC Surgery

Carolinas HealthCare System Adrenal Center - Dr. Kercher
Carolinas HealthCare System Adrenal Center - Dr. Kercher

Overview of the Adrenal Glands

Multidisciplinary program for the management of adrenal tumors

The adrenal glands are the small, triangular-shaped endocrine organs located on top of each kidney that produce and release a variety of hormones important to maintaining normal bodily functions. These hormones have regulatory effects on the heart, blood flow, dilation of arteries, and maintenance of a normal balance of electrolytes (salt, potassium) and naturally-produced steroids within the body.

Each adrenal gland is comprised of an outer cortex and an inner medulla. The adrenal cortex produces hormones such as aldosterone (which maintains blood pressure by controlling the levels of sodium and potassium excreted into urine), cortisol (which controls how the body uses carbohydrates, protein, and fat), and androgens (which help to regulate normal levels of testosterone and estrogen). The adrenal medulla is a source of hormones referred to as catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline), which are "stress hormones" that increase alertness, strength and speed in an emergency

What is Adrenal Disease?

Adrenal disease occurs when there is over-production or under-production of any of the adrenal hormones or when a tumor (either cancerous or benign) grows within the adrenal gland. Over-production of adrenaline can cause severe headaches, anxiety, palpitations, sweating, and a rapid heart rate. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to the development of Cushing's syndrome, a condition characterized by obesity, high blood pressure, high glucose levels, menstrual problems, fragile skin and stretch marks. Excess production of aldosterone can cause high blood pressure and low potassium levels.

Although adrenal cancer is rare, early detection can profoundly improve a patient's quality of life and also decrease or eliminate its negative effects on the rest of the body.

Conditions treated at CMC Surgery include:

  • Cushing's Syndrome (cortisol-producing adrenal tumor)
  • Hyperaldosteronism (Conn's Syndrome / aldosterone-producing adrenal tumor)
  • Pheochromocytoma (adrenaline-producing adrenal tumor)
  • Adrenal Cortical Cancer (cancer originating from the adrenal glands)
  • Metastatic Cancer (spread of other cancers to the adrenal glands)

Treatment Options

Our highly-trained surgeons perform specialized surgery to precisely and safely remove adrenal tumors. Most procedures can be performed with laparoscopic surgery. After laparoscopic adrenalectomy, the majority of patients are able to leave the hospital within a day or two of the operation.

Laparoscopic Surgery (also known as Minimally Invasive Surgery) allows surgeons to perform the same procedures as in traditional open surgery, using small incisions instead of large abdominal incisions. Studies have shown major benefits to the patient including: fewer surgical complications, reduced post-operative pain, shorter hospital stay, smaller scars, quicker recovery time and ultimately a quicker return to regular activities including work.

Kent W. Kercher, MD, FACS
Kent W. Kercher, MD, FACS
Co-Director, Carolinas Hernia Center
Co-Director, Carolinas Laparoscopic and Advanced Surgery Program

Dr. Kercher is a North Carolina native and a cum laude graduate of Davidson College. He obtained his doctorate of medicine with distinction from the University of North Carolina prior to completing his general surgery training at Carolinas Medical Center in 1999. After completing fellowship training in minimally invasive surgery at the University of Massachusetts, he joined the Department of General Surgery faculty at Carolinas Medical Center in August 2000. He currently serves as co-director of Carolinas Laparoscopic and Advanced Surgery Program (CLASP).

Dr. Kercher's primary clinical focus includes minimally invasive solid organ, gastrointestinal and hernia surgery, as well as hand-assisted laparoscopic surgery. In addition to directing the laparoscopic live donor nephrectomy program within the Department of Transplantation, he has a particular interest in laparoscopic nephrectomy for benign and malignant kidney diseases. The refinement of techniques for minimally-invasive hernia repair, as well as basic science research in the use of biomaterials for hernia repair, remains important areas of focus for the CLASP faculty.

View Dr. Kercher full profile.

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