The clinical utility of plasma and urine metanephrines in hypertensive emergency

Sriram Gubbi, Priyanka Mathias, Leonidas Palaiodimos, Raphael Hulkower, Ulrich Schubart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Metanephrines (MTNs) are metabolites of catecholamines and are constantly produced in high amounts by pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs). Marked MTN elevations (> 3 times the upper limit of normal [ULN]) are highly suggestive of PPGL. The frequency of marked MTN elevations in non-PPGL hypertensive emergencies (HTNEs) is unknown. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed plasma free metanephrine (PMTN) and 24-h urinary fractionated metanephrine (UMTN) levels in 48 consecutive patients (59.7 ± 15.6 years; 48% female; BMI: 31 ± 9.7 kg/m2) hospitalized for HTNE, defined as systolic blood pressure (SBP) > 180 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) > 120 mmHg with end-organ damage. PMTNs were measured in 47 patients, UMTNs were measured in 16 patients, and both PMTNs and UMTNs were measured in 15 patients. Results: PMTN/UMTN levels were not associated with SBP/DBP, comorbidities, end-organ damage, or interfering medications, the exception being that plasma normetanephrines (PNMNs) were significantly associated with comorbidities (Adj. R2 = 0.16; p = 0.04) and interfering medications (Adj. R2 = 0.15; p = 0.03), although with weak correlation. Marked MTN (specifically PNMN) elevations (647, 521, and 453 pg/mL; normal ≤ 148 pg/mL) were noted in only three patients (6%). Discussion: Marked MTN elevations in HTNE are uncommon. Therefore, we recommend against measuring MTN in the setting of an apparent precipitating cause of HTNE to avoid unnecessary testing and imaging. Testing for MTN in HTNE should be pursued only when there is no clear precipitating cause and in cases where there is strong underlying clinical suspicion for PPGL. However, should testing be performed, marked MTN elevations should not be disregarded as being a commonly occurring result of HTNE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-130
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Hypertensive emergency
  • Metanephrines
  • Paraganglioma
  • Pheochromocytoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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