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Catecholamines Urine Test

Last updated July 23, 2019

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

The Catecholamines Urine Test is a test to assess the levels of catecholamine hormones in urine. It is used to diagnose adrenal gland disorders and hormone-releasing tumors (or neuroendocrine tumors).

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Epinephrine Urine Test
  • Fractionated Catecholamines Urine Test
  • Norepinephrine Urine Test 

What is Catecholamines Urine Test? (Background Information)

  • Catecholamines are a group of hormones necessary for the ‘fight-or-flight’ response and the regulation of metabolism. Major catecholamines include epinephrine (or adrenaline), norepinephrine (or noradrenaline), and dopamine
  • Catecholamines are produced during times of stress, by the adrenal (or suprarenal) glands, a pair of pyramid-shaped organs that sit atop each kidney. Specifically, chromaffin tissue within the medulla (or center) of the adrenal glands produce catecholamines. Catecholamines travel through the blood and exert their effects on most cells in the body
  • The kidneys excrete catecholamines into the urine after they are broken down. Epinephrine is broken down into metanephrine; norepinephrine is broken down into normetanephrine; and dopamine is broken down into homovanillic acid
  • Disorders of the adrenal gland and certain cancers may result in significantly elevated levels of catecholamines and their byproducts in blood and urine
  • The Catecholamines Urine Test is a test to assess the levels of catecholamine hormones in urine. It is used to diagnose adrenal gland disorders and hormone-releasing tumors (or neuroendocrine tumors)

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Catecholamines Urine Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing the Catecholamines Urine Test:

  • Chronic high blood pressure, especially when unresponsive to normal therapy
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Flushing
  • Follow-up to an abnormal imaging test 

How is the Specimen Collected for Catecholamines Urine Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Catecholamines Urine Test:

Sample required: Urine

Process: Collection of urine into a sterile container over a 24-hour period.

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test. 

What is the Significance of the Catecholamines Urine Test Result?

The significance of Catecholamines Urine Test is explained:

  • Increased levels of catecholamines may indicate:
    • Excessive stress
    • Pheochromocytoma
    • Ganglioblastoma
    • Ganglioneuroma
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Long-term manic-depressive disorders
    • Myocardial infarction (MI)
    • Neuroblastoma
    • Shock
  • Decreased levels of catecholamines may indicate:
    • Autonomic nervous system disorder
    • Orthostatic hypotension
    • Parkinson’s disease 

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario. 

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

  • Certain factors may interfere with the results of the Catecholamines Urine Test. These include diabetes, strenuous exercise, psychological stress, and certain foods that contain methylxanthine, such as coffee, chocolate, and tea
  • Adrenal gland tumors are usually not cancerous, i.e., they do not normally spread to other tissues (a process known as metastasis) 

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider, the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Sept. 23, 2014
Last updated: July 23, 2019