Open Access

Correlation between the size of pheochromocytoma and the level of metanephrines


Objective. Pheochromocytomas (PHEO) and paraganglioma (PGLs) are rare neuroendocrine catecholamine-producing tumors that arise from the chromaffin cells of either the adrenal medulla or extra-adrenal paraganglionic tissues. Despite the recent advances in imaging technologies, biochemical evidence of excessive catecholamine production by the tumor is considered the most important test for the diagnosis of these tumors. The aim of the present study is to investigate the role of the catecholamine metabolites (normetanephrine and metanephrine) levels in the diagnosis of PHEO/PGLs and to evaluate if their levels correlate with the size of these tumors.

Patients and Methods. Twenty-five patients were included in the study during the time period of 10 years. Their data were compared with another set of 25 patients to obtain the sensitivity and specificity of metanephrine and normetanephrine in the diagnosis of PHEO/PGLs. The tumor size was reviewed in every patient to obtain the correlation coefficient between the tumor sizes and the plasma/24-hour urinary metanephrine levels.

Results. The sensitivity and specificity rates for plasma metanephrine were 80–92% and 92–96%, respectively; while for 24-hour urinary metanephrine were 80–90% and 95–100%, respectively. We found a strong positive relationship between the tumor size and the plasma levels of normetanephrine (r=0.518, p<0.01), and metanephrine (r=0.577, p<0.01). While the relation with the 24-hour urinary concentrations of normetanephrine (r=0.384, p=0.01) and 24-h urinary meta-nephrine (r=0.138, p<0.01) was low.

Conclusion. The determination of plasma and 24-hour urinary levels of metanephrines is a reliable test for the diagnosis of PHEO, as they are continuously produced by the tumor cells in contrast to catecholamines.