Giant phaeochromocytoma presenting with an acute stroke: reappraising phaeochromocytoma surveillance for the neurofibromatosis type 1 phakomatosis

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Abstract

Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a multisystem genetic disorder associated with reduced lifespan attributed largely to malignancy and vascular causes. One of the tumours associated with NF1 is phaeochromocytoma. The phaeochromocytoma has earned the moniker, a ‘great mimicker', due to its varied means of presentation. We present a patient with NF1 who was diagnosed with a giant 20 cm phaeochromocytoma after suffering from an ischaemic stroke. Current guidelines do not advocate surveillance of phaeochromocytoma in asymptomatic patients with NF1, unlike other genetic syndromes associated with phaeochromocytoma. However, there is increasing evidence that this approach may not help in the early detection and treatment of this potentially life-threatening disease. Our patient remained hypertensive after surgery despite achieving biochemical cure. The suggested chronicity of the underlying tumour in our patient is a reminder to practising clinicians to rethink our strategy in identifying phaeochromocytoma in adults with NF1.

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