E. Marie Freel, Anthony W. Stanson, Geoffrey B. Thompson, Clive S. Grant, David R. Farley, Melanie L. Richards, and William F. Young Jr.*
Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre (E.M.F.), University of Glasgow, G12 8TA Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Department of Radiology (A.W.S.) and Divisions of Gastroenterologic and General Surgery (G.B.T., C.S.G., D.R.F., M.L.R.) and Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism, Nutrition, and Internal Medicine (W.F.Y.) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905
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Context: Pheochromocytomas are rare, but potentially fatal, neoplasms. The diagnosis and localization of pheochromocytoma can be challenging, and recently there has been some debate regarding the role for adrenal venous sampling (AVS). The utility of AVS in this setting is hampered by a lack of normative value data for adrenal vein catecholamine concentrations and the reliability of lateralization ratios. We sought to address these concerns by analyzing AVS catecholamine concentrations from patients who did not have pheochromocytoma.
Design/Setting: Eighteen patients underwent successful AVS for evaluation of cortisol-producing adrenal masses. All had normal 24-h urinary excretion of fractionated catecholamines and metanephrines.
Results: There was a wide range of catecholamine concentrations in both the right (epinephrine 389–118326 pg/ml; norepinephrine 156–11193 pg/ml) and left (epinephrine 113–9327 pg/ml; norepinephrine 229–2216 pg/ml) adrenal veins. The right adrenal vein-to-left adrenal vein epinephrine gradient was as high as 83:1 (median 2.1:1; P < 0.02). Although less striking, similar findings were also seen for norepinephrine.
Conclusions: This report provides a reference range for adrenal vein catecholamine concentrations in nonpheochromocytoma patients and illustrates the wide variation in epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations. Epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations are statistically significantly higher in the right vs. the left adrenal vein; in the case of epinephrine, up to an 83-fold difference was found between the right and left adrenal veins. These data highlight why AVS should not be used in the investigation of adrenal pheochromocytoma.