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Catecholamines in Blood

How It Is Done

The health professional drawing your blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure to the site and then a bandage.

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

A test for catecholamines measures the amount of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the blood. These catecholamines are made by nerve tissue camera.gif, the brain, and the adrenal glands. The test also may measure the amounts of 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 blood1
Epinephrine:

Lying down:

Less than 110 picograms per microliter (pg/mL) or less than 599 picomoles per liter (pmol/L)

Standing up:

Less than 140 pg/mL or less than 762 pmol/L

Norepinephrine:

Lying down:

70–750 pg/mL or 381–4,083 pmol/L

Standing up:

200–1,700 pg/mL or 1,088–9,256 pmol/L

Dopamine:

Sitting or lying down:

Less than 30 pg/mL or less than 163 pmol/L

Metanephrine:

Sitting or lying down:

Less than 0.50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L)

Normetanephrine:

Sitting or lying down:

Less than 0.90 nmol/L

High values

  • High levels of catecholamines, vanillylmandelic acid (VMA), or metanephrine can mean that 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 levels of catecholamines usually do not indicate a problem.

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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