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Catecholamines (say "kat-uh-KOH-luh-meens") are hormones made mostly by your adrenal glands as a reaction to stress.
When you feel stressed, these hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, muscle strength, and mental alertness. They also lower the amount of blood that goes to the skin and intestines. They increase blood going to the major organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys. This helps your body prepare for "fight-or-flight" reactions.
Your body breaks down these hormones and passes them into your urine. This test measures how much of these hormones are in your urine over a 24-hour period.
A catecholamine test is done to help diagnose a rare tumor in the adrenal glands called a pheochromocytoma.
Tumors like this can cause your adrenal glands to release too many hormones. And that can cause high blood pressure, excessive sweating, headaches, fast heartbeats, and tremors.
You may be asked to avoid certain foods and fluids for 2 to 3 days before the test. They include:
Do not use tobacco at all during the 24-hour urine collection.
Be sure to keep warm during the 24 hours. Being cold can raise your catecholamine levels.
Drink plenty of fluids during the 24 hours to avoid dehydration.
Many medicines can change the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the over-the-counter and prescription medicines you take.
Your doctor may ask you to stop certain medicines, such as blood pressure medicines, before the test. Do not take cold or allergy remedies, aspirin, or diet pills for 2 weeks before the test.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form (What is a PDF document?).
This test is usually done at home. You must collect all the urine you produce in a 24-hour period.
Taking a 24-hour urine sample does not cause pain.
A 24-hour urine sample doesn't cause any problems.
A test for catecholamines measures the amount of the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the urine. The test also usually measures the amounts of vanillylmandelic acid (VMA), metanephrine, and normetanephrine.
These numbers are just a guide. The range for "normal" varies from lab to lab. Your lab may have a different range. Your lab report should show what range your lab uses for "normal." Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. So a number that is outside the normal range here may still be normal for you.
Less than 100 micrograms (mcg) or less than 591 nanomoles (nmol)
Less than 20 mcg or less than 109 nmol
15-80 mcg or 89-473 nmol
65-400 mcg or 420-2612 nmol
105-354 mcg or 573-1933 nmol
74-297 mcg or 375-1506 nmol
Vanillylmandelic acid (VMA)
Less than 9 milligrams (mg) or less than 45 micromoles (mcmol)
Normal urine values vary in children depending on their age.
Low values may be caused by diabetes or some nervous system problems.
You may not be able to have the test, or the results may not be helpful, if you:
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Alan C. Dalkin, MD -
Current as ofMarch 15, 2018
Current as of:
March 15, 2018
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Alan C. Dalkin, MD -
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