Genitourinary Radiology > Anatomy > Adrenal Glands

Adrenal Glands

The right adrenal gland is located 1-2 cm cephalad to the upper pole of the right kidney, and lies posterior to the inferior vena cava and medial to the right lobe of the liver. The left adrenal gland is at the same level or caudal to the right adrenal gland, anteromedial to the upper pole of the left kidney, lateral to the aorta and posterior to the pancreas and splenic vessels.

The major products of the adrenal cortex include cortisol, aldosterone, and dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) from the zona glomerulosa, zona fasciculata, and zona reticularis, respectively. The major products of the adrenal medulla are the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine. You cannot differentiate cortex from medulla on imaging (this is a microscopic finding).

Unenhanced CT scan through the level of the adrenal glands shows normal appearing bilateral adrenal glands in the suprarenal fossa.  The glands take on the appearance of  an upside down "V" or "Y" often (arrows).

Stylized drawing of normal adrenal cortex and medulla.  The cortex produces steroid hormones and the medulla produces epinephrine and norepinephrine.
From Duxter et al. Treatment of the Postmenopausal Woman: Basic and Clinical Aspects. 3rd edition. Lippincott, Williams and Williams, 1999.

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