JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Plasma-free vs deconjugated metanephrines for diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma.

BACKGROUND: The diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma is commonly performed by the measurements of plasma-free normetanephrine and metanephrine. Plasma-deconjugated normetanephrine and metanephrine have been proposed as alternative, equivalent, but easier to measure biomarkers.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to compare the diagnostic performance of plasma-free vs deconjugated normetanephrine and metanephrine in patients tested for phaeochromocytoma.

METHODS: The study population included a reference group of 262 normotensive and hypertensive volunteers, 198 patients with phaeochromocytoma and 528 patients initially suspected of having the tumour, but with negative investigations after at least 2 years of follow-up. Measurements were performed using liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection.

RESULTS: Plasma concentrations of free normetanephrine were 17-fold higher in patients with phaeochromocytoma than in the reference population, a 72% larger (P < 0·001) difference than that for the 10-fold higher levels of plasma-deconjugated normetanephrine. In contrast, relative increases in plasma concentrations of free and deconjugated metanephrine were similar. Using upper cut-offs established in the reference population, measurements of plasma-free metabolites provided superior diagnostic performance than deconjugated metabolites according to measures of both sensitivity (97% vs 92%, P = 0·002) and specificity (93% vs 89%, P = 0·012). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for the free metabolites was larger than that for the deconjugated metabolites (0·986 vs 0·965, P < 0·001).

CONCLUSION: Measurements of plasma-free normetanephrine and metanephrine are superior to the deconjugated metabolites for diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma.

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