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Ann Endocrinol (Paris). 2006 Mar;67(1):14-9.

[Diffuse uptake of brown fat on computed-tomography coupled positron emission tomoscintigraphy (PET-CT) for the exploration of extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma].

[Article in French]

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Service d'Endocrinologie, Diabète et Maladies Métaboliques, Hôpital Civil, CHU Strasbourg, France.


We report an observation of strong bilateral uptake on a PET-CT scan compatible with activation of brown adipose tissue in a patient with extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma. A 42-year-old man was hospitalized for hypersudation together with weight loss and palpitations. Heart rate was 120 bpm and fasting blood glucose 1.36 g/l. Endocrine explorations revealed elevated serum chromogranine which reached 517 ng/ml (19-38). The norepinephrine level reached 49.7 nmol/l (<4.00) and urinary norepinephrine and normetanephrine levels reached 13977 nmol/24h (<414) and 32 micromol/24h (0.4-2.5) respectively. The thoraco-abdominal and pelvic scan showed a 6 cm diameter paraaortic hypervascularized mass with an infiltrative lesion of both perirenal area and mediastinal tissue without adenopathies. The abdominal MRI revealed the mass with a low intensity signal in T1 and a slight high intensity signal in T2. MIBG and octreoscan scintigraphies were negative. 18F-DG PET showed intensed uptake in the tumor mass together with intense, diffuse and bilateral uptake above and below the diaphragm. The mass was resected. Histological examination of the surgical specimen confirmed the diagnosis of extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma with an index of 13% cellular proliferation without cell atypia. There was a hypervascularization with small islets of brown adipose tissue in the perirenal fat. Both plasmatic and urinary catecholamines decreased to the normal range after the operation and PET-scan normalized. Bilateral spread of the radiotracer uptake was probably due to brown adipose tissue activation by excessive sympathetic stimulation induced by catecholamines released by the tumor.

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