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Alternative Names Return to topDopamine-urine test; Epinephrine-urine test; Adrenalin-urine test; Vanillylmandelic acid (VMA); Urine metanephrine; Normetanephrine; Norepinephrine-urine test; Urine catecholamines; VMA; HVA; Metanephrine; Homovanillic acid (HVA)
Definition Return to top
Catecholamines are small molecules made by nerve tissue (including the brain) and the adrenal gland.
The major catecholamines are dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. These substances break down into other compounds, which leave your body through your urine.
A urine test can be done to measure the level of catecholamines in your body.
Catecholamines can also be measured with a blood test. See also: Catecholamines - blood
How the Test is Performed Return to top
For this test, you must urinate into a special bag or container every time you use the bathroom for 24-hour period.
For an infant:
Thoroughly wash the area around the urethra (the hole where urine flows out). Open a urine collection bag (a plastic bag with an adhesive paper on one end).
Check the infant frequently, and change the bag after the infant has urinated. Empty the urine from the bag into the container provided by your doctor.
Because lively infants can cause the bag to move, this procedure may take a couple of attempts. You may need extra collection bags.
When finished, label the container and return it as instructed.
How to Prepare for the Test Return to top
Acute stress and vigorous exercise may affect the test results.
Foods that can increase urinary catecholamines include coffee, tea, bananas, chocolate, cocoa, citrus fruits, and vanilla. Avoid these foods for several days prior to the test.
Certain drugs can also affect test results. Your health care provider may tell you to stop taking certain medicines before the test. Never stop taking medicine without first talking to your doctor.
The following drugs can increase catecholamine measurements:
Drugs that can decrease catecholamine measurements include:
How the Test Will Feel Return to top
The test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.
Why the Test is Performed Return to top
The test is usually done to diagnose an adrenal gland tumor called pheochromocytoma. It may also be used to diagnose neuroblastoma. Urine catecholamine levels are increased in most persons with neuroblastoma.
The urine test for catecholamines may also be used to monitor those who are receiving treatment for these conditions.
Normal Results Return to top
All of the catecholamines are broken down into inactive substances that appear in the urine:
The following normal values represent the amount of the substance found in the urine over a 24 hour period. Normal values vary from lab to lab, but in general are as follows:
What Abnormal Results Mean Return to top
Elevated levels of urinary catecholamines may indicate:
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
Risks Return to top
There are no risks.
Considerations Return to top
Several foods and drugs, as well as physical activity and stress, can affect the accuracy of this test.
References Return to top
Young WF. Adrenal medulla, catecholamines, and pheochromocytoma. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 246.Update Date: 5/9/2009 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.