Catecholamines - urine
Catecholamines are chemicals made by nerve tissue (including the brain) and the adrenal gland.
The main types of catecholamines are dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. These chemicals break down into other components, which leave your body through your urine.
A urine test can be done to measure the level of catecholamines in your body. Separate urine tests may be done to measure related substances.
Catecholamines can also be measured with a blood test.
Dopamine - urine test; Epinephrine - urine test; Adrenalin - urine test; Urine metanephrine; Normetanephrine; Norepinephrine - urine test; Urine catecholamines; VMA; HVA; Metanephrine; Homovanillic acid (HVA)
How the Test is Performed
For this test, you must collect your urine in a special bag or container every time you urinate for 24-hour period.
For an infant, thoroughly wash the area where urine exits the body.
This procedure may take a few tries. An active baby can move the bag causing urine to go into the diaper.
Check the infant often and change the bag after the infant has urinated into it. Drain the urine from the bag into the container provided by your health care provider.
Deliver the sample to the laboratory or to your provider as soon as possible.
How to Prepare for the Test
Stress and heavy exercise may affect the test results.
Some foods can increase catecholamines in your urine. You may need to avoid the following foods and beverages for several days before the test:
Many medicines can interfere with test results.
How the Test will Feel
The test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.
Why the Test is Performed
The test is usually done to diagnose an adrenal gland tumor called pheochromocytoma. It may also be used to diagnose neuroblastoma. Urine catecholamine levels are increased in most people with neuroblastoma.
The urine test for catecholamines may also be used to monitor those who are receiving treatment for these conditions.
All of the catecholamines are broken down into inactive substances that appear in the urine:
The following normal values are the amount of the substance found in the urine over a 24-hour period:
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Elevated levels of urinary catecholamines may indicate:
The test may also be performed for:
There are no risks.
Several foods and drugs, as well as physical activity and stress, can affect the accuracy of this test.
Guber HA, Farag AF. Evaluation of endocrine function. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 24.
Young WF. Adrenal medulla, catecholamines, and pheochromocytoma. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 228.
Review Date: 5/21/2017
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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