Characteristics of pheochromocytoma in a 4- to 20-year-old population

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Aug;1073:30-7. doi: 10.1196/annals.1353.003.


Hypertension in children and adolescents has become a major health problem recently recognized, and in a significant number of patients it is due to an endocrine tumor. The aim of this study was to establish the characteristics of pheochromocytoma in a population of 58 patients between 4 and 20 years of age studied at our Center. They represented a 23% of the total population of 255 pheochromocytoma patients studied. In the younger group (under 20 years of age), there was a marked predominance of severe sustained hypertension (93%), only 7% presented paroxysmal hypertension and none of them was normotensive. The youngsters studied showed a higher incidence of bilateral adrenal pheochromocytoma (34%) and extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma (22%). Malignancy was found in 12% of these patients. In addition, the incidence of familial pheochromocytoma was elevated in these patients (39%). Surprisingly, in contrast with the adult population where the most frequent familial pheochromocytomas were multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2A (15%), the younger population showed a higher predominance of von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) (28%) and lower incidence of MEN 2A, MEN 2B, neurofibromatosis (NF), and succinate dehydrogenase subunit B (SDHB). In the VHL group, only two patients belonging to one family, showed the R167W mutation, while the others showed novel mutations in conserved amino acids. It may be speculated that the high incidence of VHL in youngsters may account for the biochemical and clinical features they usually present.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pheochromocytoma / pathology*
  • Pheochromocytoma / physiopathology