Glycemic Disturbances in Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma

Cureus. 2019 Apr 27;11(4):e4551. doi: 10.7759/cureus.4551.


In this review article, we aimed to analyze the available data on pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas as it pertains to their not as well-recognized association with significant glycemic abnormalities in the preoperative, perioperative, and postoperative settings as well as how they should be managed clinically. Pheochromocytomas are rare adrenal tumors that account for about 0.1% of hypertension. Paragangliomas, on the other hand, are even less common and have fewer clinical manifestations. Both types of tumors may have unusual modes of presentation which can challenge even the most experienced clinicians and are easy to overlook, resulting in post-mortem diagnosis. We wish to draw further attention to the life-threatening effects on glucose and insulin homeostasis that can occur in the form of hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic states. Hyperglycemia is a result of a glucose intolerant state created in the setting of catecholamine excess, which can present in the form of resistant diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), or even hyperglycemic hyperosmolar states (HHS). In many reported cases, these abnormalities resolve with resection of the tumor. However, past clinicians have also described a state of "reactive hypoglycemia" that can occur following tumor resection, further emphasizing the need for very close perioperative and postoperative monitoring. Severe hypoglycemia may also occur with inherited diseases linked to pheochromocytoma such as von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease as well as predominantly epinephrine-producing tumors, given some of the dramatic downstream effects of alpha and beta adrenoceptor agonization. While much of the data remains anecdotal, clinicians will benefit from the awareness of the protean manifestations of these tumors and the varied and lesser-known effects on glucose and insulin homeostasis.

Keywords: extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma; hyperglycemia; hypoglycemia; insulin resistance; insulin sensitivity; multiple endocrine neoplasia ii; neurofibromatosis type 1; paraganglioma; pheochromocytoma; von hippel lindau.

Publication types

  • Review