Pheochromocytoma is a primary tumor of the adrenal medulla (1) that produces large amounts of adrenaline (and/or noradrenaline). Rarely, a similar condition can also be caused by tumors in other catecholaminergic tissues (paragangliomas, 2). A pheochromocytoma mimicks the condition of chronic sympathetic activation.
So, upon excessive secretion of catecholamines from a pheochromocytoma, a patient develops tachycardia, sweating, hypertension, headache and paleness. The patients are treated with α- and β-blocking agents. After adequate blocking by these drugs, the definite treatment of pheochromocytoma is by surgical adrenalectomy.
I. Attacks of pheochromocytoma can be precipitated by surgery, because the stress response stimulates the adrenal medulla.
II. Excessive amounts of catecholamines in 24h urine collection is required for diagnosis of pheochromocytoma.
Extra info: Catecholamines are adrenaline and noradrenaline and their metabolites. High concentrations of catecholamines in urine provide biochemical evidence for pheochromocytoma.