Journal List > J Korean Soc Endocrinol > v.20(1) > 1063767

Kim, Kim, Park, Shin, Park, Kim, Cho, and Lee: Diagnostic Value of 24-hours Urinary Total Metanephrine As a Screening Test of Patients with Suspected Pheochromocytoma



A pheochromocytoma is a rare cause of secondary hypertension. Its diagnosis is important as the hypertension is usually curable by resection of the tumor, whereas the condition is potentially lethal if undetected. Biochemical confirmation of excessive catecholamine production is a prerequisite to a definitive diagnosis. Various studies from other countries have indicated that measuring of the urinary metanephrine, using a specific procedure, is the single most reliable screening test for all patients suspected of having a pheochromocytoma. However, the diagnostic value of urinary metanephrine has never been reported in Korea. We investigated the diagnostic value of 24-hours urinary metanephrine in patients with a suspected pheochromocytoma.


This was a retrospective evaluation study, which included 95 patients with sustained hypertension and paroxysmal symptoms, and 38 patients with asymptomatic adrenal incidentaloma at Seoul National University Hospital, between July 2000 and October 2002. We performed the 24-hour urinary total metanephrine test on all patients. The diagnosis of a pheochromocytoma was applied only when confirmed by pathological analysis of a resected specimen. The possibility of a pheochromocytoma was ruled out when all biochemical tests were normal, which were performed at least in duplicate, or there was no evidence of a mass in abdominal radiological studies or histological verification. We determined the upper reference limit for urinary metanephrine as 1.3 mg/day and calculated the sensitivity and specificity of the 24-hour urinary metanephrine test.


Seventeen patients were diagnosed with a pheochromocytoma. The total metanephrine measurement had sensitivities and specificities of 82.4 and 73.3% in all the patients, 90.9 and 66.7% in patients with hypertension and paroxysmal symptoms, and 66.7 and 90.6% in patients with adrenal incidentaloma, respectively.


The urinary total metanephrine measurement had relatively lower sensitivities and specificities than in other countries (sensitivity: 83~100%, specificity: 80~98%). The sensitivity of urinary metanephrine was relatively high in patients with hypertension and paroxysmal symptoms, and the specificity was high in patients with an adrenal incidentaloma. We suggest that normetanephrine and metanephrine should be separately measured, and a reasonable upper reference limit be used. It may also be necessary to measure urinary metanephrine together with urinary catecholamine or VMA to improve the diagnostic value of the urinary metanephrine test.

Figures and Tables

Fig. 1
24-hours Urine Metanephrine in Patients Suspected of Having Pheochromocytoma The dotted horizontal line represents the upper limit for the reference cut-off value used in this study. As calculated from the patients data presented in the figure, clinical sensitivity was 90.9% (hypertension group) and 66.7% (incidentaloma group), specificity was 66.7% (hypertension group) and 90.6% (incidentaloma group), respectively
Table 1
Characteristics of Subjects

*: Headache or diaphoresis or palpitation

: Radiologic studies were not done for 37 patients

Table 2
Sensitivity and Specificity of 24-hours Urine Metanephrine


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