Differences in growth rate on CT of adrenal adenomas and malignant adrenal nodules

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OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study is to determine the differences in growth rate of adrenal adenomas and malignant adrenal nodules. MATERIALS AND METHODS. This was a retrospective review of adults with an adrenal nodule seen at two different abdominal or chest CT examinations or PET/CT examinations. Patients in the adenoma group were included if they had a CT, MRI, or pathologic diagnosis of an adrenal adenoma. Patients in the malignant group were included if they had a pathologically proven malignant adrenal nodule. Nodule growth was defined as a change in the largest axial diameter greater than or equal to 3 mm. Growth rate was calculated by dividing the change in the longest axial diameter by the time between the first and last imaging examination. RESULTS. There were 105 adenomas and 26 malignant nodules. Of the 105 adenomas, 34 (32.4%; 95% CI, 23.6-42.2%) grew, three (2.9%; 95% CI, 0.6-8.1%) became smaller, and 68 (64.8%; 95% CI, 54.8-73.8%), were unchanged in size. All 26 (100%; 95% CI, 89.1-100%) malignant nodules grew. The mean (± SD) growth rate of adenomas was 1.0 ± 0.67 mm/year (range, 0.3-2.8 mm/year), compared with 58.4 ± 78.5 mm/year (range, 5.8-395.4 mm/year) for malignant nodules (p < 0.001). A growth rate of 3 mm/year distinguished adenomas from malignant nodules with a sensitivity of 100% (95% CI, 86.8-100%) and a specificity of 100% (95% CI, 96.6-100%). CONCLUSION. Approximately one-third of radiologically proven adrenal adenomas grew, all of which grew at a rate less than 3 mm/year. All malignant adrenal nodules grew, and all at a rate greater than 5 mm/year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)632-636
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Adrenal adenoma
  • Adrenal malignancy
  • Growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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