n Cardiovascular Journal of South Africa - Phaeochromocytoma by way of case reports : case report

Volume 13, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1680-0745



Endocrine causes of hypertension are relatively rare, buttheir detection offers a real chance for cure. This is particularly true of phaeochromocytoma, a catecholamine- producing tumour derived from chromaffin tissue, which, if left undetected, is invariably fatal. The lethal nature of this tumour is dependent on two major characteristics: firstly, its ability to secrete catecholamines in excess, resulting in potentially catastrophic consequences; and, secondly, its malignant potential. Approximately 5-10% of these tumours are malignant, which, if metastasised, are generally refractory to treatment. Clearly, however, because only one in 1 000 hypertensives is likely to harbour a phaeochromocytoma, it is not a cost-effective option to screen all hypertensives for this cause. Rather, a selective approach is preferred in which a high index of suspicion for the clinical characteristics of this tumour is used to guide the physician. The following two case reports derived from our records at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital will illustrate many issues related to diagnosis and management of this fascinating tumour.

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