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Phaeochromocytoma Without Symptoms: Desensitization Of The α- And β-adrenoceptors

M. Krause, D. Reinhardt, K. Kruse
Published 1988 · Medicine

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A 16-year-old boy is described who had a relapse of a phaeochromocytoma 6 years after an initially successful tumour resection. The relapse was suspected after routine testing of urinary catecholamine excretion and was confirmed by scintigraphy with 123I-meta-iodobenzylguanidine, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. The plasma norepinephrine level was 3082 pg/ml (normal <500 pg/ml); the plasma epinephrine level was in the normal range. Surprisingly, our patient had no symptoms, including hypertension. The density of the α- and β-adrenoceptors on circulating blood cells was decreased. Postoperatively the plasma catecholamine levels were in the normal range. Three months after surgery the adrenoceptor density was almost normal. We conclude that the absence of clinical symptoms was probably due to desensitization of the adrenoceptors. After a successful operation to treat phaeochromocytoma, long-term monitoring of catecholamines is necessary to rule out an asymptomatic relapse.
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