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Clin Chem. 1992 Apr;38(4):486-92.

Biochemical diagnosis of pheochromocytoma by simultaneous measurement of urinary excretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine.

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Department of Chemical Pathology, St. Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


The utility of specific assay of urinary catechols in pheochromocytoma diagnosis was examined by reviewing our data on the investigation of pheochromocytoma in a population of 2476 patients investigated over a six-year period. We used specific gas-chromatographic/mass-spectrometric (GC/MS) analysis for the simultaneous measurement of norepinephrine, dopamine, and the neuronal metabolites 3,4-dihydroxyphenylglycol (DHPG) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) in all samples; the last two years of data collection (from 1101 patients) also included the specific GC/MS assay of epinephrine. The importance of assaying epinephrine as well as norepinephrine was shown by these latter data. During this latter period, 19 of 1101 patients were found to have pheochromocytoma; of these, nine had tumors that exclusively secreted norepinephrine, six had tumors that exclusively secreted epinephrine, and four exhibited excess production of both norepinephrine and epinephrine. Neither dopamine nor DOPAC was useful in the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma. A substantial proportion of patients may have uniquely epinephrine-secreting pheochromocytomas, previously considered a rarity. Thus we recommend that the biochemical testing for pheochromocytoma include the specific measurement of both norepinephrine and epinephrine.

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