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Catecholamines in Urine

How It Feels

There is no pain while collecting a 24-hour urine sample.

Risks

There is no chance for problems while collecting a 24-hour urine sample.

Results

A test for catecholamines measures the amount of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the urine. The test also usually measures the amounts of vanillylmandelic acid (VMA), metanephrine, and normetanephrine.

Normal

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.

Catecholamines in a 24-hour urine sample1
Free catecholamines

Less than 100 micrograms (mcg) or less than 591 nanomoles (nmol)

Epinephrine

Less than 20 mcg or less than 109 nmol

Norepinephrine

15–80 mcg or 89–473 nmol

Dopamine

65–400 mcg or 420–2612 nmol

Normetanephrine

105–354 mcg or 573–1933 nmol

Metanephrine

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.

High values

  • High levels of free catecholamines, vanillylmandelic acid (VMA), or metanephrine can mean an adrenal gland tumor (pheochromocytoma) or another type of tumor that makes catecholamines is present.
  • Any major stress, such as burns, a whole-body infection (sepsis), illness, surgery, or traumatic injury, can cause high catecholamine levels.
  • Many blood pressure medicines can also cause high catecholamine levels.

Low values

Low values may be caused by diabetes or some nervous system problems.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Doing physical exercise.
  • Having extreme emotional stress.
  • Having surgery, injury, or illness.
  • Taking certain medicines, such as aspirin, nitroglycerin, tricyclic antidepressants, tetracycline, theophylline, or some blood pressure medicines.
  • Using nicotine, alcohol (ethanol), or cocaine.
  • Taking nonprescription cough, cold, or sinus medicines.
  • Eating or drinking foods with caffeine.

What To Think About

  • The 24-hour urine test is better for finding high levels of catecholamines than a blood test. For more information on a catecholamine blood test, see the topic Catecholamines in Blood.

Citations

  1. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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