Current Environment:

What is a pheochromocytoma?

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 the Division of Endocrinology — 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.

Pheochromocytomas | Symptoms & Causes

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

Pheochromocytomas | Diagnosis & Treatments

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.

Pheochromocytomas | Treatments

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.

Pheochromocytomas | Programs & Services

Pheochromocytomas | Contact Us