What is the role of imaging in the diagnosis of pheochromocytomas?

Updated: Jul 20, 2020
  • Author: Michael A Blake, MBBCh, MRCPI, FRCR; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Answer

Imaging studies should be performed only after biochemical studies have confirmed the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma. Studies are as follows:

  • Abdominal CT scanning: Has accuracy of 85-95% for detecting adrenal masses with a spatial resolution of 1 cm or greater
  • MRI: Preferred over CT scanning in children and pregnant or lactating women; has reported sensitivity of up to 100% in detecting adrenal pheochromocytomas
  • Scintigraphy: Reserved for biochemically confirmed cases in which CT scanning or MRI does not show a tumor
  • PET scanning: A promising technique for detection and localization of pheochromocytomas

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