Catecholamine blood test

Catecholamines, Total

A healthy result should fall into the range 242 - 1125 pg/mL.

Other names: Dopamine, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Free Catecholamines, plasma and urine, Fractionated Catecholamines

What are Catecholamines?

Catecholamines are a group of similar hormones released into the bloodstream in response to physical or emotional stress.

The primary catecholamines are:

Catecholamine testing measures the amounts of these hormones in the urine and/or blood. Urine testing is recommended over blood testing.

Functions of Catecholamines:

  • Catecholamines are released into the bloodstream in response to physical and emotional stress to:
    • help transmit nerve impulses in the brain,
    • increase glucose and fatty acid release for energy,
    • dilate bronchioles (decreasing resistance in the respiratory airway and increasing airflow to the lungs),
    • dilate the pupils.
  • also:

The above functions only increase during and shortly after a stressful situation and the broken down catecholamines are then eliminated from the body through the urine. However a group of rare nervous system tumors (such as pheochromocytom, paragangliomas or neuroblastoma) can produce large amounts of these catecholamines and cause havoc inside the body, such as:

  • Sudden hypertension
  • Severe headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Tingling in hands and feet.

Why is the test performed? 

The Endocrine Society recommends that a test for plasma free metanephrine or urine metanephrine be used to help detect the presence of pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (catecholamine-secreting tumors). Urine and/or blood tests for catecholamines may be used to help confirm or rule out the presence of these tumors. However, blood tests are not as reliable as urine testing because the stress from having blood drawn can elevate catecholamines.

Normal ranges:

Here are the ranges usually considered normal for a 24-hour period. These may be different depending on the laboratory that performs the test:

  • Dopamine: 65 to 400 micrograms (mcg)
  • Epinephrine: 0.5 to 20 mcg
  • Metanephrine: 24 to 96 mcg (but some laboratories give the range as 140 to 785 mcg)
  • Norepinephrine: 15 to 80 mcg
  • Normetanephrine: 75 to 375 mcg
  • Total urine catecholamines: 14 to 110 mcg

References:

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