The many faces of pheochromocytoma

H. K. Ghayee, K. L. Wyne, F. S. Yau, W. H. Snyder, S. Holt, S. Tunc Gokaslan, Fiemu Nwariaku

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: To recognize and manage pheochromocytomas in unusual settings. Methods: Three case reports are presented with clinical, biochemical, imaging, and operative findings. The pitfalls in diagnosis of pheochromocytomas and management are addressed. Results: We begin with a 27-yr-old gravida 2, para 1 Caucasian woman with unexplained tachycardia and hypertension during a routine pre-natal visit at 30 weeks estimated gestational age. Urinary studies revealed elevated catecholamines. Magnetic resonance imaging localized a 6.6-cm right adrenal mass with features consistent with a pheochromocytoma. She was medically managed with phenoxybenzamine and propranolol until 35 weeks, after which she underwent a combined Cesarean section, and open right adrenalectomy. Another patient, a 36-yr-old African-American woman presented to a hospital in cardiac arrest, with elevated serum troponins, and underwent cardiac catheterization, which revealed normal coronary arteries. A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed a left adrenal mass and CT-guided biopsy was consistent with a pheochromocytoma, although prior studies were negative. Finally, we present a 49-yr-old Caucasian woman who had a right adrenalectemy 10 yr prior and presented to the clinic with fluctuating blood pressures, headaches, and palpitations. Further testing revealed she had a recurrent metastatic pheochromocytoma. The challenges behind treating these patients are further explored. Conclusion: Antenatal diagnosis of pheochromocytoma, though challenging, is associated with lower maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. The differential diagnosis for cardiac arrest in the presence of normal coronary arteries should include a pheochromocytoma. Finally, treatment with iodinated metaiodobenzylguanidine may be a therapeutic option for those patients with metastatic pheochromocytomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-458
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Adrenal mass
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Catecholamines
  • Metastatic
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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