What Is Retroperitoneal Adenopathy? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
A CT scan of the abdomen can help detect retroperitoneal adenopathy.
A CT scan of the abdomen can help detect retroperitoneal adenopathy.

Retroperitoneal adenopathy refers to swelling or disease in the lymph nodes behind the peritoneum. This structure covers most of the abdominal organs and may be used as an anatomical point of reference when discussing problems in the abdomen. Patients can experience retroperitoneal adenopathy for a number of reasons, and a detailed evaluation may be necessary to determine the root cause. This is important information to have in the development of a treatment plan, as it may determine which options, like surgery or medications to treat infection, would be most suitable.

Cancer in the abdomen area can cause retroperitoneal adenopathy.
Cancer in the abdomen area can cause retroperitoneal adenopathy.

Lymph nodes do not have to be swollen to exhibit adenopathy; this term actually refers to any kind of disease in the nodes, including small masses and other issues that can arise. These may be visible in a medical imaging study like a Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen. Biopsies can also indicate that retroperitoneal adenopathy is present in a patient. Improved medical imaging technology has made it possible to check for issues like this without invasive testing.

Retroperitoneal adenopathy refers to any swelling or disease in the lymph nodes behind the peritoneum.
Retroperitoneal adenopathy refers to any swelling or disease in the lymph nodes behind the peritoneum.

One potential reason patients may develop this condition is from the presence of cancer. Cancers in and around the abdomen can spread through the lymph nodes as they progress. Testing the nodes can provide information about the extent of metastasis. In surgery to remove tumors, removal of involved lymph nodes may be recommended as well, to remove as many cancer cells as possible from the body. The surgeon can use imaging as well as visual checks in the operating room to identify lymph nodes for excision.

Adenopathy may be present even if the lymph nodes aren't swollen.
Adenopathy may be present even if the lymph nodes aren't swollen.

Other diseases can also involve the lymph nodes, and sometimes patients experience temporary adenopathy in connection with a disease that later resolves. Infections can cause retroperitoneal adenopathy, for example. Certain autoimmune disorders can also start to attack the lymph nodes. Lymphatic circulation plays a key role in the immune system and thus a number of diseases can cause temporary swelling, obstructions, and other problems in the retroperitoneal lymph nodes.

Advanced medical imaging technology has made it easier to detect retroperitoneal adenopathy without invasive procedures.
Advanced medical imaging technology has made it easier to detect retroperitoneal adenopathy without invasive procedures.

This is a clinical sign, rather than a specific disease. Care providers may identify retroperitoneal adenopathy in a workup to find out why a patient is not feeling well and develop a diagnosis. They can also find it when they are specifically checking for problems with the lymph nodes, usually in association with an evaluation for cancer where there are concerns that it might have spread. Rather than trying to address the problem at the lymph nodes, treatment focuses on the underlying cause.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • A CT scan of the abdomen can help detect retroperitoneal adenopathy.
      A CT scan of the abdomen can help detect retroperitoneal adenopathy.
    • Cancer in the abdomen area can cause retroperitoneal adenopathy.
      Cancer in the abdomen area can cause retroperitoneal adenopathy.
    • Retroperitoneal adenopathy refers to any swelling or disease in the lymph nodes behind the peritoneum.
      Retroperitoneal adenopathy refers to any swelling or disease in the lymph nodes behind the peritoneum.
    • Adenopathy may be present even if the lymph nodes aren't swollen.
      Adenopathy may be present even if the lymph nodes aren't swollen.
    • Advanced medical imaging technology has made it easier to detect retroperitoneal adenopathy without invasive procedures.
      Advanced medical imaging technology has made it easier to detect retroperitoneal adenopathy without invasive procedures.