This particular test is done to check the level of the hormones dopamine, metanephrine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, in the urine. Catecholamines in urine are created by the adrenal glands, the brain and the nerve tissue. Catecholamines are useful for the body and are necessary for responding to fright or stress, and help the body react in 'fight or flight' situations.
Catecholamines are generated in large amounts by the adrenal glands to react to stress. Dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and epinephrine (adrenaline) are the main catecholamines. These break down metanephrine and vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) that are then passed in the urine.
Catecholamines are known to increase mental alertness, muscle strength, breathing rate, blood pressure, and heart rate. They are responsible for decreasing the amount of blood that goes to the skin and increasing the flow of blood to organs like the kidneys, heart, and the brain. Sometimes, rare tumours like pheochromocytoma can also increase the level of catecholamines in the urine and blood. This can lead to tremors, palpitations, headaches, excessive sweating, and high blood pressure.
A catecholamine test is done to diagnose a pheochromocytoma, a tumour in the adrenal glands.
Two to three days before you have a catecholamine test you will be asked to refrain from consuming liquorice, aspirin, foods with vanilla, and foods and beverages with caffeine. You'll also be asked to avoid consuming cheese, fava beans, avocadoes, walnuts, bananas, red wine, and beer as these contain amines. You'll also have to avoid using tobacco. You'll be asked to stay warm as feeling cold can increase the level of cateholamine, and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Do tell your doctor the medicines that you're taking as some medicines can hamper the test results.
A catecholamine test is done by collecting a 24 hour urine sample. You have to collect your urine after the first time you urinate in the morning. Write down the time you do so. Then for the whole day, collect the urine, after urinating every time. The laboratory will give you a large container to collect your urine. Make sure that you not run your fingers in the inside of the container. You'll have to keep this container in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Record the time you empty your bladder for the last time in the 24 hour period.
Remember not to let anything else such as menstrual blood, tissue paper or pubic hair, drop into this container.