Pheochromocytomas are rare adrenal tumors characterized by excessive catecholamine secretion. Symptoms and signs associated with pheochromocytomas are usually intermittent and chronic but can rarely develop into life-threatening crises. We describe a case of acute severe congestive heart failure in a previously healthy female, who recovered rapidly (4 days after admission) with acute medical therapy. The etiology on evaluation was a spontaneous bleed in a previously undiagnosed pheochromocytoma, resulting in a pheochromocytoma crisis and transient stress cardiomyopathy, followed by quick recovery of cardiac function. Our aim is to describe pheochromocytoma as a rare cause of stress cardiomyopathy. We discuss the evaluation of pheochromocytoma during critical illness and triggers/treatment strategies for pheochromocytoma crises.
Hemorrhage in a pheochromocytoma can result in a pheochromocytoma crisis, with sudden release of excess catecholamines resulting in multisystem organ dysfunction and high mortality.
Acute decompensated heart failure can be a rare presentation of pheochromocytoma, in a patient with no cardiac risk factors.
Measurement of metanephrines in acutely stressful clinical situations can have considerable overlap with the biochemical picture of pheochromocytoma. Early imaging studies may help with the differential diagnosis.
Pheochromocytoma should be ruled out before performing an adrenal biopsy.
Emergent adrenalectomy in pheochromocytoma crisis results in high mortality. Medical management of the acute crisis followed by elective adrenalectomy after alpha-blockade results in better outcomes.