Pathophysiology and Acute Management of Tachyarrhythmias in Pheochromocytoma: JACC Review Topic of the Week

Matthew A. Nazari, Jared S. Rosenblum, Mark C. Haigney, Douglas R. Rosing, Karel Pacak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Pheochromocytomas, arising from chromaffin cells, produce catecholamines, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The tumor biochemical phenotype is defined by which of these exerts the greatest influence on the cardiovascular system when released into circulation in high amounts. Action on the heart and vasculature can cause potentially lethal arrhythmias, often in the setting of comorbid blood pressure derangements. In a review of electrocardiograms obtained on pheochromocytoma patients (n = 650) treated at our institution over the last decade, severe and refractory sinus tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, and ventricular tachycardia were found to be the most common or life-threatening catecholamine-induced tachyarrhythmias. These arrhythmias, arising from catecholamine excess rather than from a primary electrophysiologic substrate, require special considerations for treatment and complication avoidance. Understanding the synthesis and release of catecholamines, the adrenoceptors catecholamines bind to, and the cardiac and vascular response to epinephrine and norepinephrine underlies optimal management in catecholamine-induced tachyarrhythmias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-464
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 28 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • blood pressure
  • catecholamines
  • pheochromocytoma
  • sinus tachycardia
  • tachyarrhythmias
  • ventricular tachycardia


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