Management of catecholamine-secreting tumors in pregnancy: A review

Alessandro Prete, Rosa Maria Paragliola, Roberto Salvatori, Salvatore Maria Corsello*

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Catecholamine-secreting tumors (pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas) presenting during pregnancy are extremely rare, but they can be fatal to both mother and fetus. Recent discoveries in the genetic background of these tumors are expected to address an increasing number of at-risk women to prenatal diagnosis. Methods: The literature was reviewed in order to provide clinicians with a practical and updated guide on how to manage this life-threatening condition. Results: The clinical presentation of catecholamine-secreting tumors can be deceptive and mimic common disorders of pregnancy. Silent catecholamine-secreting tumors can become evident during pregnancy, and hypertension cannot be considered a hallmark for this condition: some women may be normotensive or develop orthostatic hypotension. Biochemical screening includes measurement of plasma free metanephrines or urinary fractioned metanephrines. Measurement of catecholamines, dopamine, and methoxytyramine can provide further information on tumor biology, location, and prognosis. Diagnostic imaging is limited, and medical treatment requires a cautious balance between hemodynamic control and effects on the fetoplacental unit. Several genes have been associated with syndromes including catecholamine-secreting tumors, and positive genetic testing can correlate with tumor behavior. Timing and modalities for tumor removal and delivery, including anesthetic management, depend on gestational age, maternal and fetal wellbeing, control of catecholamine excess, suspicion of multiple or malignant disease, and surgical accessibility to the tumor. Conclusion: A timely diagnosis and a multidisciplinary approach are the keys to improve pregnancy outcomes in patients with a catecholamine-secreting tumor; each case should be managed in a tertiary referral center.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-370
Number of pages14
JournalEndocrine Practice
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms
  • Catecholamines
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Endocrine
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Paraganglioma
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic


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