A test for catecholamines measures the amount of the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, metanephrine, and dopamine in the urine. These catecholamines are made by nerve tissue, the brain, and the adrenal glands. Catecholamines help the body respond to stress or fright and prepare the body for "fight-or-flight" reactions.
The adrenal glands make large amounts of catecholamines as a reaction to stress. The main catecholamines are epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and dopamine. They break down into vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) and metanephrine, which are passed in the urine.
Catecholamines increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, muscle strength, and mental alertness. They also lower the amount of blood going to the skin and increase blood going to the major organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys.
Certain rare tumors (such as a pheochromocytoma) can increase the amount of catecholamines in the blood and urine. The increased amount can cause high blood pressure, excessive sweating, headaches, fast heartbeats (palpitations), and tremors.
A catecholamine test is done to help diagnose a tumor in the adrenal glands called a pheochromocytoma.
You may be asked to avoid the following foods and fluids for 2 to 3 days before having this test:
Do not use tobacco at all during the 24-hour urine collection.
Be sure to keep warm during the 24-hour urine test because being cold can increase your catecholamine levels.
Drink plenty of fluids during the 24-hour time period to avoid dehydration.
Many medicines may change the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the nonprescription 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, including aspirin, or nonprescription diet pills for 2 weeks before the test.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding 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?).
24 hour urine sample
There is no pain while collecting a 24-hour urine sample.
There is no chance for problems while collecting a 24-hour urine sample.
A test for catecholamines measures the amount of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the urine.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what’s normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
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 may vary in children depending on their age.
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
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.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Alan C. Dalkin, MD - Endocrinology|
|Last Revised||July 9, 2010|
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