POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF ADRENAL CRYOSURGERY
- Significantly less bleeding postoperatively
- Quicker recovery time
- More likely to completely destroy right adrenal tumors
- Shorter operative time
- Technically easier procedure for surgeon
In the ferret, adrenal disease is the
most common problem we face, with an incidence of up to
70%. The two adrenal glands are small oval shaped organs,
which are present in the abdomen, in front of each kidney.
Adrenal disease is the result of adrenal tumors and hyperplasia,
which produce an excess of hormones (estrogen and testosterone).
It is this excess of hormones which result in the symptoms
we see from this chronic, debilitating disease.
There are many symptoms present in ferrets
with adrenal disease. Of these symptoms, there are three
which are almost diagnostic when present alone or in combination,
including alopecia (hair loss), an enlarged vulva and return
to male sexual behavior. Ferrets with one or more of these
symptoms are almost certain to have adrenal disease. Although
the hair loss generally begins on the tail and base of the
tail, the tops of the rear feet and over the shoulder blades,
it can occur anywhere on the ferret’s body. An enlarged
vulva occurs in about 50% of the female ferrets afflicted
with this disease. The vulva, located just below the anus,
can become quite large. Secondary urinary tract infections
can occur as a result of the enlarged vulva due to the pooling
of urine. Return to male sexual behavior can occur in neutered
male ferrets as a result of elevated testosterone levels.
This behavior can include trying to mount a female spayed
or another male ferret, or aggression toward other ferrets
or rarely toward people. Other symptoms, which occur as
a result of this disease, include lethargy, muscle loss,
pruritis and straining to urinate (as a result of an enlarged
prostate due to elevated testosterone levels).
Diagnosis is made at surgery finding
one or both enlarged adrenal glands. A adrenal profile (University
of Tenn., School of Veterinary Medicine), which includes
three different hormone levels, are frequently elevated.
Radiographic findings are usually inconclusive and ultrasound
can pick up the enlarged adrenals in about 50% of the cases.
The treatment of choice for this condition
is surgery, removing the abnormal adrenal(s). This surgery,
particularly when the right adrenal gland is involved, is
technically difficult since the right adrenal gland normally
is attached to the vena cava (the largest vein in the body).
Right adrenal tumors, as a result, are difficult to completely
remove and can be associated with postoperative bleeding.
Cryosurgery is the freezing of tissue
with liquid nitrogen, intending to kill the cells, which
are frozen. Cryosurgery has been used, in human medicine,
for decades for the removal of skin tumors, and has been
used more recently to destroy many other tumors including
tumors of the liver, breast, prostate and adrenal. One of
the many potential benefits of cryosurgery is decreased
bleeding, less intraoperative time, a quicker recovery and
a technically easier procedure. Cryosurgery has been shown
to be very safe, even when used on tumors adjacent to large
I have used cryosurgery to treat over
35 cases, with excellent results. Since I have performed
hundreds of traditional adrenalectomies, it is easy for
me to already see the tremendous advantages of cryosurgery,
particularly when the right adrenal gland is involved. This
new technique offers the ferret surgeon many potential advantages
over traditional adrenalectomy, and may someday be the technique
of choice to treat adrenal tumors in the future. Studies
are currently underway to compare adrenal cryosurgery and
traditional adrenalectomy in the ferret with adrenal disease.
For more information on this new exciting
technique contact Dr Weiss. For a detailed, step-by-step
video on this new procedure and other common ferret surgeries,
contact Ferret Video Productions, PO Box 59510, Potomac,
MD 20859 or fax (301) 349-3997.