Pheochromocytoma Suppression and Provocative Testing

Pheochromocytoma is a condition where the adrenal glands secrete abnormally high amounts of the catecholamines epinephrine and norephinephrine. These hormones normally regulate blood pressure, and excessive blood levels will result in abnormal and dangerously high blood pressure that does not respond to treatment (malignant hypertension). These tests are used to differentiate malignant hypertension from essential hypertension (high blood pressure caused by cardiovascular disease).

When catecholamine levels are not high, but pheochromocytoma is still suspected, specific drugs can be given that will either decrease (suppress) or increase (provoke) catecholamine production. Glucagon will normally cause an increase in the production of catecholamines, and the levels will be extremely high in people with pheochromocytoma. Clonidine will normally cause a decrease in catecholamine production, but there will be no difference in the amount produced in people with pheochromocytoma.

You will be required to lie quietly in bed for at least one-half hour before this test, and your vital signs will be closely monitored for a period of time following this test.


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