Catecholamines, Fractionated, Plasma

The Catecholamines, Fractionated, Plasma test contains 1 test with 4 biomarkers.

Brief Description: The Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test is a diagnostic procedure that measures the levels of catecholamines—specifically, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and dopamine—in the plasma. Catecholamines are hormones produced mainly by the adrenal glands as a response to stress, whether physical, emotional, or environmental. These hormones help the body in responding to stressful situations by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Plasma

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When and Why a Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma Test May Be Ordered

A healthcare provider might order this test if a person is showing symptoms that suggest an adrenal gland tumor or another disorder related to the adrenal glands. Common symptoms include:

  1. Persistent or intermittent high blood pressure.
  2. Severe headaches.
  3. Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  4. Excessive sweating.

These symptoms can be suggestive of a pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma, which are rare tumors of the adrenal glands that can cause excessive production of catecholamines.

What a Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma Test Checks For

The test measures the levels of:

  1. Epinephrine (Adrenaline): Increases heart rate and blood sugar, helping in preparing the body for a "fight or flight" response.
  2. Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline): Primarily responsible for the immediate response to stress, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  3. Dopamine: In the context of this test, its primary importance is as a precursor to the above hormones, though it has many other functions in the brain and body.

Other Lab Tests Ordered Alongside a Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma Test

When a Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test is ordered, the doctor might also request:

  1. Metanephrines in Blood or Urine: These are metabolites of catecholamines and can be more sensitive than catecholamines in detecting certain tumors.
  2. Vanillylmandelic Acid (VMA) Test: This measures the amount of VMA, a major end product of catecholamine metabolism, in the urine.
  3. Cortisol Level: To check the function of the adrenal gland.
  4. Imaging Studies: Such as CT or MRI, if a tumor is suspected.

Conditions or Diseases Requiring a Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma Test

The main conditions or diseases that would lead a healthcare provider to order this test include:

  1. Pheochromocytoma: A rare tumor of the adrenal medulla that can lead to excessive production of catecholamines.
  2. Paraganglioma: Similar to pheochromocytomas, but they are located outside the adrenal gland.
  3. Other adrenal disorders: Such as adrenal gland tumors or neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that can cause overproduction of catecholamines.

How Health Care Providers Use the Results of a Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma Test

The results provide crucial information about catecholamine production in the body:

  1. Elevated Levels: Consistently high levels of catecholamines or metanephrines might indicate the presence of a pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma.
  2. Normal or Low Levels: Can help rule out the presence of these tumors.

However, it's essential to interpret the results alongside clinical symptoms and other diagnostic procedures. If catecholamine-producing tumors are confirmed, treatment usually involves surgery, and the test might be repeated post-operatively to confirm the success of the treatment.

Most Common Questions About the Catecholamines, Fractionated, Plasma test:

Purpose and Clinical Indications

Why is the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test performed?

The Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test is conducted to measure the levels of catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine) in the plasma. These are neurotransmitters that play pivotal roles in responding to stress. The test is often utilized to diagnose or rule out pheochromocytoma, a rare tumor of the adrenal glands which can cause the excessive release of catecholamines.

In what scenarios might a physician recommend the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test?

A physician may recommend the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test if a patient presents with symptoms suggestive of a pheochromocytoma, such as sudden bouts of high blood pressure, severe headaches, rapid heartbeat, and excessive sweating. The test can also be beneficial for individuals who have a family history of pheochromocytoma or related conditions, or those with known adrenal tumors to assess if they are actively producing catecholamines.

Interpretation of Results

What do elevated levels of catecholamines in the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test suggest?

Elevated levels of catecholamines may suggest the presence of a pheochromocytoma or another condition that leads to excessive release of these neurotransmitters. It's noteworthy, however, that elevated catecholamines can also be seen in other situations such as severe stress, trauma, certain medications, or withdrawal from drugs/alcohol.

How are the results of the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools?

The results of the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test can provide valuable diagnostic information but are usually considered in conjunction with other tests, such as imaging studies (like CT or MRI) of the adrenal glands, to confirm the presence of a tumor. In some cases, a urinary test for catecholamines and their metabolites might also be used to complement the findings of the plasma test.

Clinical Implications

Can medications or other substances impact the results of the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test?

Yes, certain medications or substances can influence catecholamine levels. For instance, tricyclic antidepressants, levodopa, and certain antipsychotic medications can raise catecholamine levels. It's essential for patients to inform their healthcare provider of all medications and supplements they are taking before undergoing the test.

How does the treatment plan change based on the results of the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test?

If the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test results suggest the presence of a pheochromocytoma or another catecholamine-producing tumor, the patient may be referred to an endocrinologist or surgeon for further evaluation and potential surgical removal of the tumor. Additionally, medications to manage symptoms or control high blood pressure might be prescribed. If the test rules out a pheochromocytoma, other potential causes for the patient's symptoms will be explored.

Relationships with Other Health Conditions

Aside from pheochromocytoma, are there other conditions that can lead to altered catecholamine levels in the Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma test?

Yes, while pheochromocytoma is a primary concern when elevated catecholamines are detected, other conditions can also lead to changes in catecholamine levels. For instance, neuroblastoma, a type of cancer often found in the adrenal glands of children, can cause elevated catecholamine levels. Conditions like severe stress, heart failure, septic shock, or even a recent meal can influence catecholamine levels in the plasma.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: Catecholamines Fractionated Plasma

Catecholamines, Total




*Process times are an estimate and are not guaranteed. The lab may need additional time due to weather, holidays, confirmation/repeat testing, or equipment maintenance.

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