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Pheochromocytomas

  • A pheochromocytoma is a tumor on the adrenal gland that secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine hormones.

    • Epinephrine and norepinphrine are responsible for regulating heart rate and blood pressure, among other functions.
    • Pheochromocytomas occur most frequently in young to middle-aged adults.
    • Ten percent of people affected are children, who usually develop symptoms between the ages of 6 and 14.

    Here at Boston Children's Hospital, pheochromocytomas are treated through our General Endocrinology Program—a multidisciplinary program that provides comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management for patients with disorders of the adrenal gland and other parts of the body associated with the endocrine system.

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115


     617-355-7476

     

  • What causes pheochromocytomas?               

    In most cases, both genetic and environmental factors play a role. The condition can be seen on its own or in combination with other disorders. The most common disorders associated with pheochromocytomas are:

    What are the symptoms of pheochromocytomas?

    The most common symptom seen with a pheochromocytoma is high blood pressure, which is sometimes extreme. While each child may experience symptoms differently, some of the most common include:

    • rapid pulse
    • heart palpitations
    • headache
    • dizziness
    • poor weight gain despite good appetite
    • growth failure
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • abdominal pain
    • pale skin
    • clammy skin
    • sweating
  • How do doctors diagnose a pheochromocytoma?

    In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, some of the diagnostic procedures your child’s doctor may request include:

    • blood and urine tests (to measure hormone levels)
    • computerized tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan)
    • radioisotope scan - uses radioactive substances introduced into the body to create an image of the functioning adrenal gland
  • How are pheochromocytomas treated?

    Treatment for a pheochromocytoma usually includes removing the tumor.

    • Before removing the tumor, your child's physician may prescribe medications to control high blood pressure.
    • Your child may have multiple tumors, and in order to be thorough, we will conduct an extensive evaluation to locate them before surgery.

    Continuous medical follow-up may be required to monitor the development of future tumors.

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