What is the role of beta blockers in the treatment of pheochromocytoma?

Updated: Aug 10, 2018
  • Author: Michael A Blake, MBBCh, MRCPI, FRCR; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Answer

Beta blockers are used if significant tachycardia occurs after alpha blockade. Beta blockers are not administered until adequate alpha blockade has been established, however, because unopposed alpha-adrenergic receptor stimulation can precipitate a hypertensive crisis. Noncardioselective beta blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal) or nadolol (Corgard), are the usual choice; however, cardioselective agents, such as atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Lopressor), also may be used.

Labetalol (Trandate, Normodyne) is a noncardioselective beta-adrenergic blocker and selective alpha-adrenergic blocker that has been shown to be effective in controlling hypertension associated with pheochromocytoma. However, it has also been associated with paradoxic episodes of hypertension thought to be secondary to incomplete alpha blockade. Thus, its use in the preoperative treatment of patients with pheochromocytoma is controversial.

During surgery, intravenous phentolamine, a rapid-acting alpha-adrenergic antagonist, is used to control blood pressure. Rapid-acting intravenous beta blockers, such as esmolol, are also used to normalize blood pressure.


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