Key Endocrine Terminology

Adrenal Glands: The adrenal glands are small glands that sit on top of each kidney. The right gland looks like a small pyramid and sits next to a large vein (inferior vena cava) that carries blood from the legs and abdomen back to the heart. The left adrenal gland is shaped like a crescent and sits next to the aorta, which is the large artery that takes blood from the heart to the rest of the body. 

Adrenalectomy: In a traditional adrenalectomy, an incision is made over the abdomen or side in order to provide direct access to the adrenal gland. A laparoscopic adrenalectomy requires smaller incisions. During a laparoscopic procedure, three to four half-inch incisions are made, and surgeons use a camera for visual guidance and special instruments to remove the adrenal gland or glands. With a laparoscopic adrenalectomy, most patients go home within 24 to 72 hours and experience less postoperative discomfort and a shorter recovery time than patients who have a traditional adrenalectomy. The majority of our adrenalectomies are performed using laparoscopic methods. 

Parathyroid Glands: The parathyroid glands are four small (about the size of a grain of rice) glands that are located in the neck, next to the thyroid gland. The parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH controls the level of calcium in the blood in three ways: 
  • Breaking down bone tissue to allow calcium to be released into the blood 
  • Increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium from food 
  • Increases the kidney’s ability to retain calcium rather than having it released in urine 
Hyperthyroidism: a disease in which the thyroid is hyperactive and makes too much thyroid hormone. Like most conditions of the thyroid gland, it is more common in women. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by either overproduction of thyroid hormone or excessive release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland due to inflammation and/or destruction. 

Hypothyroidism: a thyroid problem in which the thyroid is underactive or non-active. It is more often seen in women than men. In general, hypothyroidism can be diagnosed by a thorough history and blood tests.

Laparoscopy: Laparoscopy is a type of surgical procedure in which a small incision is made, usually in the navel, through which a viewing tube (laparoscope) is inserted. The viewing tube has a small camera on the eyepiece. This allows the doctor to examine the organs on a video monitor connected to the tube. Other small incisions can be made to insert instruments to perform procedures. Laparoscopy can be done to diagnose conditions or to perform certain types of operations. It is less invasive than regular open abdominal surgery (laparotomy). 

Thyroid Gland: The thyroid gland is located in the center of the neck, in front of the trachea (windpipe) and just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid has a left and a right lobe, which give the gland a butterfly-shaped appearance. The two lobes are connected by a thin strip of thyroid tissue called the isthmus. The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in the endocrine system. It uses iodine from food intake to make the hormone thyroxine, which helps regulate body metabolism, bone loss, temperature, heart rate and how forcefully the heart contracts. It also affects growth rate, how quickly food moves through the digestive tract, and how quickly sugar is made and used by the body.