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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Minerva Medica 2003 August;94(4):267-72

language: English

Recent advances in diagnosis and treatment of pheochromocytoma

Veglio F., Morello F., Morra Di Cella S., Del Colle S., Rabbia F., Mulatero P.


Pheochromocytomas are rare tumours of catecholamine-producing chromaffin cells leading to hypertension and symptoms of catecholamine excess. They can be benign or malignant, sporadic or familial tumours. Genetic syndromes associated with pheochromocytoma are MEN II, VHL disease and neurofibromatosis type 1. Usually, pheochromocytomas occur in the adrenal medulla. Clinical manifestations include hypertension (which can be intermittent, stable or in the form of hypertensive peaks) and symptoms related to catecholamine excess such as headache, palpitations and tachycardia, pallor, anxiety and nervousness, nausea, vomiting, weight loss. This clinical syndrome can be mimicked by various hyperkinetic and hyperadrenergic states. When pheochromocytoma is suspected, the first diagnostic step is represented by the measurement of catecholamines and their metabolites (metanephrines) in urine and plasma. Chro-mogranin A measurement can be useful. The clonidine suppression test may be helpful in ruling out other conditions that may elevate catecholamines and metanephrines. Localiza-tion and staging of pheochromocytoma is based on MRI, which is more sensitive than CT scan, and 131I-MIBG scintiscan. The best therapeutic option for pheochromocytoma is surgery with a laparoscopic approach. An appropriate pre-, intra- and postoperative medical management of the patient is mandatory. In the absence of optimal medical treatment, intraoperative mortality reaches 50%.

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