Alterations in Plasma Norepinephrine Concentration During Surgical Resection of Pheochromocytoma

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Using a sensitive and specific radioenzymatic assay, the plasma norepinephrine (NE) concentration was measured in seven patients with pheochromocytoma, one patient with bilateral adrenal medullary hyperplasia, one patient with a retro-peritoneal paraganglioma, and two patients undergoing bilateral adrenalectomies for palliation of metastatic breast carcinoma. Surgical manipulation of the pheochromocytomas resulted in striking increases in plasma NE concentration with concomitant increases in blood pressure. There were either small changes or no changes in the patients' plasma NE and blood pressure during resection of the normal adrenal glands, the adrenal glands with medullary hyperplasia, or the retroperitoneal paraganglioma. Plasma dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH) was measured in one patient with pheochromocytomas and the patient with medullary hyperplasia. There was no change in plasma DBH in either patient, supporting the concept that exocytosis is not the primary mechanism for catecholamine secretion from pheochromocytomas. It was also noted that enflurane is an excellent general anesthetic for the resection of pheochromocytomas, and that sodium nitroprusside (rather than phentolamine) may be the agent of choice for the management of the hypertensive episodes that occur during surgical manipulation of pheochromocytomas.

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