Background: Pheochromocytoma, a rare and usually curable cause of hypertension, is characterized by symptoms and signs related to increased catecholamine secretion. Pregnancy can elicit clinical manifestations of otherwise unrecognized pheochromocytoma. Methods and Results: Four women, ranging in age from 27 to 37 years, were referred to the hypertension clinic with the following presentations: 1) a 35-year-old woman, diagnosed with gestational hypertension and headaches during the third trimester of her pregnancy and 5 months after delivery, was hospitalized with pulmonary edema. Echocardiography revealed severe dilated left ventricular (LV) dysfunction. Cardiac function was normalized after surgical resection of a pheochromocytoma from her left adrenal; 2) a 37-year-old woman suffered from preeclampsia, persistent hypertension and orthostatic hypotension after a cesarean section. A diagnostic work-up revealed a catecholamine-secreting paraganglioma in the retroperitoneum. The patient underwent a laparosopic resection of the tumor; 3) a 27-year-old woman suffered from hypertension and episodes of palpitations, sweating, and dyspnea in the first trimester of her pregnancy. An ultrasound revealed a 5-cm mass in the left adrenal. She underwent a left adrenalectomy at the 17th week of pregnancy, which confirmed the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma; 4) a 34-year-old woman, at the 26th week of pregnancy, presented with an acute loss of vision and blood pressure of 230/140 mm Hg. Fundoscopy showed papilledema with soft exudates in both eyes. Chemical studies were positive and imaging revealed a left adrenal pheochromocytoma. Despite aggressive medical treatment, fetal distress mandated a laparotomy at the end of the 28th week of pregnancy. A healthy newborn was delivered and resection of the adrenal tumor confirmed the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma. Conclusions: Although rare, pheochromocytoma can cause severe peripartum hypertension. Screening for pheochromocytoma, ideally with plasma-free metanephrines, should be considered in cases of peripartum hypertension.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine