Update on pediatric pheochromocytoma

B. Havekes, J.A. Romijn, G. Eisenhofer, K. Adams, K. Pacak*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Pheochromocytomas are rare tumors in children arising from chromaffin cells of adrenal medullary or extra-adrenal paraganglionic tissue. The tumors are characterized by synthesis, metabolism, and secretion of catecholamines. The formerly used guidelines for pheochromocytoma have been changed by recent discoveries, implementation of new approaches, and understanding of biochemistry, genetics, imaging, pathophysiology, and nomenclature of these tumors. In children, pheochromocytomas are more frequently familial, extra-adrenal, bilateral, and multifocal than in adults. Because of a highly variable clinical presentation, pheochromocytoma is often referred to as the great mimic. Measurements of plasma or urinary fractionated metanephrines are recommended as first-line biochemical tests for diagnosis, with optimum diagnostic sensitivity to be preferred over specificity. In general, localization studies must be used secondary to clinical and biochemical evidence. Adequate preoperative treatment with alpha-blockade is mandatory, including for pheochromocytomas that do not secrete but only synthesize catecholamines. Because approximately 40% of pheochromocytomas in children have a hereditary basis, proper genetic testing should be performed, with appropriate implications for future follow-up and treatment options. The risk for development of malignant disease depends highly on the underlying mutation, which may also impact recommendations concerning screening and surgical or systemic treatment. This article reviews recent advances in biochemistry, genetics, and imaging and outlines recommendations for improved evaluation and treatment of children with benign or malignant pheochromocytomas.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)943-50
    JournalPediatric Nephrology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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