Does this test have other names?
Dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine tests,
What is this test?
This test measures the levels of catecholamines in your blood. The catecholamine hormones
are epinephrine, norepinephrine; and dopamine. Epinephrine is also called adrenalin.
Catecholamines are made in the adrenal glands. They are released when you have physical
or emotional stress. These hormones have many functions in the body. These include
sending nerve impulses in the brain, narrowing blood vessels, and raising your heart
rate. The test can help diagnose certain conditions that affect catecholamine levels.
Three rare tumors can also affect catecholamine levels. They cause high blood pressure
that generally goes away if the tumor is taken out. Pheochromocytomas occur in less
than 0.2% of people with high blood pressure. About 10% of them are cancer. Neuroblastoma
tumors, which are also cancer, almost always appear in childhood.
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test to help your healthcare provider figure out whether you have
certain conditions that cause high blood pressure, severe headaches, a fast heartbeat,
You may also have this test if your healthcare provider thinks you have a rare tumor
that causes high blood pressure.
Your child may have this test if he or she has symptoms of a tumor that affects catecholamine
levels. Signs and symptoms may include:
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider may also order a urine test to check your catecholamine levels.
Your provider may also order a CT or MRI scan to find the suspected tumor.
You may also need a vanillylmandelic acid test and a test for metanephrines in your
urine. These tests can help find out the cause of your symptoms. These substances
form when catecholamines break down in the body.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses
to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you
may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare
Results are given in milligrams (mg). If the blood sample is taken while you are lying
down, normal levels are:
Dopamine: less than 87 mg
Epinephrine: less than 50 mg
Norepinephrine: 110 to 410 mg
If the blood sample is taken while you are sitting up, normal levels are:
Dopamine: less than 87 mg
Epinephrine: less than 60 mg
Norepinephrine: 120 to 680 mg
If you have higher levels of catecholamines in your blood, you may have a pheochromocytoma,
paraganglioma, or neuroblastoma tumor.
How is this test done?
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your
Does this test pose any risks?
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection,
bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight
stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
What might affect my test results?
Physical and emotional stress can affect your results. Your diet and certain medicines
can also affect your results. Foods that can affect your results include those that
have chocolate, caffeine, or other stimulants. You should not eat these foods until
you have had the test.
Your test results can also be affected if you are a woman who is menstruating on test
day. Be sure to tell the lab technician that you are menstruating.
How do I get ready for this test?
Try to avoid rigorous exercise and stressful situations before your test. Also, be
sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements
you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit
drugs you may use.