We describe a case of a 47-year-old patient who presented with severe lactic acidosis, troponinemia, and acute kidney injury after receiving 8 mg of intramuscular dexamethasone for seasonal allergies in the setting of an undiagnosed epinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma. This case was atypical, however, in that the patient exhibited only mildly elevated noninvasive measured blood pressures. Following a period of alpha-adrenergic blockade, the tumor was resected successfully. Steroid administration can precipitate pheochromocytoma crisis that may present unusually as in our patient with mild hypertension but profound lactic acidosis.
Steroids administered via any route can precipitate pheochromocytoma crisis, manifested by excessive catecholamine secretion and associated sequelae from vasoconstriction.
Lack of moderate/severe hypertension on presentation detracts from consideration of pheochromocytoma as a diagnosis.
Lactatemia after steroid administration should prompt work-up for pheochromocytoma, as it can be seen in epinephrine-secreting tumors.
Noninvasive blood pressure measurements may be unreliable during pheochromocytoma crisis due to excessive peripheral vasoconstriction.