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Test Code Billings Clinic: 8818 Mayo: CATP Catecholamine Fractionation, Free, Plasma

Performing Laboratory

Mayo Clinic Laboratories in Rochester

Reporting Name

Catecholamine Fract, Free, P

Useful For

Diagnosis of pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma, as an auxiliary test to fractionated plasma and urine metanephrine measurements (plasma metanephrine is the preferred test for this diagnosis)


Diagnosis and follow-up of patients with neuroblastoma and related tumors, as an auxiliary test to urine vanillylmandelic acid and homovanillic acid measurements


Evaluation of patients with autonomic dysfunction or failure or autonomic neuropathy

Method Name

High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

Includes unconjugated norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine

Advisory Information

Unless the purpose of the measurement is drug monitoring, discontinue any epinephrine, norepinephrine, or dopamine injections or infusions for at least 12 hours before specimen draw.


Do not perform the test on patients withdrawing from legal or illegal drugs known to cause rebound plasma catecholamine release during withdrawal (see Cautions for details)

Specimen Required

Patient Preparation: Discontinue drugs that release epinephrine, norepinephrine, or dopamine, or hinder their metabolism for at least 1 week before obtaining the specimen (see Cautions for details). If this is not possible for medical reasons, contact the laboratory and discuss whether a shorter drug withdrawal period may be possible in a particular case.


The patient must refrain from eating, using tobacco, and drinking caffeinated beverages for at least 4 hours before the specimen is drawn.


Supplies: Catecholamine tubes containing EDTA-sodium metabisulfite solution (T066) (tubes have a 6-month expiration time)


Submission Container/Tube: Plastic vial

Specimen Volume: 3 mL

Collection Instructions:

1. Drawing from a catheter is required.

2. Calm the patient by giving complete instructions and reassurance regarding the procedure.

3. Insert an indwelling intravenous catheter. Flush with 3 mL of NaCl, using positive pressure.

4. Have the patient rest for 30 minutes in the supine position in a quiet room.

5. At the end of the 30 minutes, withdraw and discard a minimum of 3 mL of blood to remove the saline out of the catheter.

6. If provocative sampling (eg, standing specimen) is required, perform provocative maneuver immediately after obtaining supine specimen. Obtain standing specimen immediately.

7. For each specimen, draw 10 mL of blood into the chilled EDTA-sodium metabisulfite 10-mL tube.

8. Specimens must remain at refrigerated temperature during processing and transport.

9. Separate plasma in a refrigerated centrifuge within 30 minutes of draw.

10. Freeze specimen immediately.

Specimen Type

Plasma EDTA Meta

Specimen Minimum Volume

2 mL

Specimen Stability Information

Specimen Type Temperature Time Special Container
Plasma EDTA Meta Frozen 7 days

Reject Due To

Gross hemolysis Reject
Gross lipemia OK
Gross icterus OK

Reference Values


Supine: 70-750 pg/mL

Standing: 200-1,700 pg/mL



Supine: ≤111 pg/mL

Standing: ≤141 pg/mL



<30 pg/mL (no postural change)


For SI unit Reference Values, see


Diagnosis of Pheochromocytoma:

This test should not be used as the first-line test for pheochromocytoma, as plasma catecholamine levels may not be continuously elevated, but only secreted during a "spell." By contrast, production of metanephrines (catecholamine metabolites) appears to be increased continuously. The recommended first-line laboratory tests for pheochromocytoma are:

-PMET / Metanephrines, Fractionated, Free, Plasma: the most sensitive assay

-METAF / Metanephrines, Fractionated, 24 Hour, Urine: highly specific and almost as sensitive as PMET


However, plasma catecholamine measurements can still be useful in patients whose plasma metanephrine or urine metanephrine measurements do not completely exclude the diagnosis. In such cases, plasma catecholamine specimens, if drawn during a "spell," have a 90% to 95% diagnostic sensitivity when cutoffs of >750 pg/mL for norepinephrine and >110 pg/mL for epinephrine are employed. A lower value during a "spell," particularly when plasma or urinary metanephrine measurements were also normal, essentially rules out pheochromocytoma. Unfortunately, the specificity of these high-sensitivity cutoff levels is not good for separating tumor patients from other patients with similar symptoms. When more specific (95%) decision levels of 2,000 pg/mL for norepinephrine or 200 pg/mL for epinephrine are used, the assay's sensitivity falls to about 85%.


Diagnosis of Neuroblastoma:

Vanillylmandelic acid, homovanillic acid, and sometimes urine catecholamine measurements on spot urine or 24-hour urine are the mainstay of biochemical diagnosis and follow-up of neuroblastoma. Plasma catecholamine levels can aid diagnosis in some cases, but diagnostic decision levels are not well established. The most useful finding is disproportional elevations in 1 of the 3 catecholamines, particularly dopamine, which may be observed in these tumors.


Diagnosis of Autonomic Dysfunction or Failure and Autonomic Neuropathy:

Depending on the underlying cause and pathology, autonomic dysfunction or failure and autonomic neuropathies are associated with subnormal resting norepinephrine levels, or an absent rise of catecholamine levels in response to physiological release stimuli (eg, change in posture from supine to standing, cold exposure, exercise, stress), or both. In addition, there may be significant abnormalities in the ratios of the plasma values of the catecholamines to each other (normal: norepinephrine>epinephrine>dopamine). This is observed most strikingly in the inherited dysautonomic disorder dopamine-beta-hydroxylase deficiency, which results in markedly elevated plasma dopamine levels and a virtually total absence of plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Day(s) and Time(s) Performed

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; 9 a.m.

Test Classification

This test was developed and its performance characteristics determined by Mayo Clinic in a manner consistent with CLIA requirements. This test has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

CPT Code Information


LOINC Code Information

Test ID Test Order Name Order LOINC Value
CATP Catecholamine Fract, Free, P 34551-2


Result ID Test Result Name Result LOINC Value
2846 Norepinephrine 2666-6
2901 Epinephrine 2230-1
2906 Dopamine 2216-0