Phaeochromocytoma in pregnancy

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Hypertension during pregnancy is a common problem, causing significant maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Pre-eclampsia is by far the most common cause, affecting 5–10% of primigravid women. Phaeochromocytoma is a rare endocrine tumour causing hypersecretion of noradrenaline, adrenaline and/or dopamine. It is extremely rare during pregnancy and may be misdiagnosed with potentially catastrophic consequences. Delayed diagnosis remains a significant source of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Recognition is critical, as the majority of maternal deaths have occurred when the diagnosis has been overlooked. Diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma is achieved by detecting increased catecholamines and metabolites (metanephrine and normetanephrine) on 24-h urine collection, as these levels are unaffected by pregnancy or pre-eclampsia. Definitive treatment of phaeochromocytoma is surgical and the laparoscopic approach has been shown to be safe and is preferred for most phaeochromocytomas. Medical preparation and treatment of hypertension is essential for safe surgery. Timing of adrenalectomy is either during the second trimester or as a staged procedure after Caesarean section delivery.

Keywords: adrenal gland neoplasm; adrenalectomy; cardiomyopathy; hypertension; pregnancy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Endocrinology 2: Department of Cardiology, Knox Private Hospital and Austin Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3: Anaesthesia, St Vincent’s Hospital 4: Departments of 1Surgey

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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