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Clin Chem. 1994 Feb;40(2):250-6.

Urinary and plasma catecholamines and urinary catecholamine metabolites in pheochromocytoma: diagnostic value in 19 cases.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry, Academic Hospital, Vrije Universiteit te Brussel, Belgium.


We review our data on the measurement of catecholamines and their metabolites in 19 patients with pheochromocytoma. All the assays were specific high-performance liquid chromatographic procedures with electrochemical detection. The assay of fractionated metanephrines was 100% sensitive. Normal values for both urinary norepinephrine and epinephrine were found in two asymptomatic patients with pheochromocytoma. Normal values for 3-methoxy-4-hydroxymandelic acid (VMA) were found in two patients with pure epinephrine-secreting tumors and in one patient with multiple endocrine neoplasia type II. Plasma catecholamines were usually less increased than their urinary counterparts. We recommend the specific measurement of norepinephrine and epinephrine as the initial test for patients with suggestive symptoms, and specific measurement of normetanephrine and metanephrine for patients in whom an adrenal mass is incidentally found. We argue against the use of total metanephrines, total catecholamines, and VMA because of their lack of diagnostic sensitivity.

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