Pheochromocytoma presenting as acute decompensated heart failure reversed with medical therapy

BMJ Case Rep. 2012 Jul 19;2012:bcr2012006319. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2012-006319.


A 26-year-old woman presented to hospital with acute chest pain, hypertension, tachycardia and an elevated serum creatinine. She developed respiratory distress requiring endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation. She progressed to multiorgan failure due to decompensated congestive heart failure. Echocardiography demonstrated global hypokinesis and an ejection fraction of <10%. Her cardiac function improved with fluid resuscitation and β blockade, and she was eventually discharged home. She was readmitted a few days later with pancreatitis after presenting with nausea, abdominal pain and hypertension. During hospitalisation she had paroxysms of headache, nausea and diaphoresis associated with hypertension and tachycardia. A CT scan of her abdomen revealed an adrenal mass and serum metanephrine studies confirmed the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma. After fluid resuscitation and sympathetic blockade her ejection fraction improved to 55%. The patient underwent an uneventful adrenalectomy and made a complete recovery.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / complications*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / surgery
  • Adrenalectomy
  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / etiology*
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pheochromocytoma / complications*
  • Pheochromocytoma / diagnosis
  • Pheochromocytoma / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed