How is pheochromocytoma diagnosed?

Patients who are suspected of having a pheochromocytoma should be tested to see if they have too much catecholamines in their system. Catecholamines last only a short time and are quickly broken down by the body into molecules called metanephrines. Metanephrines last much longer and are easier and more accurate to measure than catecholamines. Catecholamines and metanephrines may be measured in the blood or in a 24-hour collection of urine. Depending on the patient's age, family history, and other factors, plasma (i.e. blood) and/or urine tests will be ordered. Levels that are at least twice the upper limit of normal mean that the patient is almost certain to have a pheochromocytoma. For patients with an adrenal incidentaloma, if the metanephrine levels are between 1 and 2 times the upper limit of normal, there is a 30% chance of having a pheochromocytoma. It is important to note that certain medications can interfere with these tests, including some antidepressants and other medications for psychiatric diseases and high blood pressure. In addition, alcohol withdrawal, sleep apnea, and major stress like an operation or significant illness can interfere with test results.
Doctors may begin to test you for pheochromocytoma because of irregular blood pressure or stomach pain. There are a variety of ways your doctor can diagnose pheochromocytoma:
-  Blood or urine tests are used to identify high hormone levels.
-  CT or MRI scans help to identify any masses.
-  Radioactive chemical injection helps to detect where the tumor is.
-  Genetic testing determines a family history of the disease.

Continue Learning about Endocrine System

Endocrine System

Your endocrine system works with your nervous system to control important bodily functions. The endocrine systems responsibilities include regulating growth, sexual development and function, metabolism and mood. The endocrine syst...

em also helps give your body the energy it needs to function properly. Endocrine glands secrete hormones into the bloodstream. Hormones are considered chemical messengers, coordinating your body by transferring information from one set of cells to another. Your endocrine system health can be affected by hormone imbalances resulting from impaired glands. A hormone imbalance can cause problems with bodily growth, sexual development, metabolism and other bodily functions. Endocrine system diseases or conditions include diabetes, growth disorders and osteoporosis.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.