Hereditary and Sporadic Pheochromocytoma: Comparison of Imaging, Clinical, and Laboratory Features
Ryan Chung, Aileen O'Shea, Ann T Sweeney, Nathaniel D Mercaldo, Shaunagh McDermott, Michael A Blake
AJR Am J Roentgenol . 2022 Jul;219(1):97-109. doi: 10.2214/AJR.21.26918. Epub 2022 Jan 26.
BACKGROUND. A considerable fraction of pheochromocytomas initially suspected to be sporadic, whether or not symptomatic, are a result of germline mutations.
OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this article is to compare imaging features between hereditary and sporadic pheochromocytomas.
METHODS. This retrospective study included 71 patients (39 women, 32 men; median age, 48 years) who underwent adrenal pheochromocytoma resection from January 2002 to October 2021 after preoperative CT or MRI. Two radiologists independently reviewed examinations to assess features of the largest resected pheochromocytoma. Interreader agreement was assessed by prevalence-adjusted bias-adjusted kappa coefficients; a third radiologist resolved discrepancies for further analysis. Genetic testing was used to classify pheochromocytomas as hereditary or sporadic and to classify hereditary pheochromocytomas by germline mutation clusters. Symptoms associated with pheochromocytomas and preoperative biochemical laboratory values were recorded. Groups were compared using Kruskal-Wallis, Fisher exact, and chi-square tests, and false-discovery rate-adjusted p values were computed to account for multiple comparisons.
RESULTS. Hereditary pheochromocytoma (n = 32), compared with sporadic pheochromocytoma (n = 39), was associated with younger median age (38 vs 52 years, p = .001) and smaller median size (24 vs 40 mm, p < .001). Interreader agreement for CT and MRI features, expressed as kappa, ranged from 0.44 to 1.00. Hereditary and sporadic pheochromocytoma showed no difference in frequency of calcifications, hemorrhage, cystic change/necrosis, or macroscopic fat on CT, or in frequency of hemorrhage, cystic change/necrosis, macroscopic fat, or microscopic fat on MRI (p > .05). When combining CT and MRI, cystic change/necrosis was observed in 35% of hereditary versus 67% of sporadic pheochromocytomas (p = .10). Hereditary pheochromocytoma, compared with sporadic, had lower frequency of symptoms (31% vs 74%; p = .004) and lower 24-hour urinary normetanephrines (1.1 vs 5.1 times upper limits of normal, p = .006). Among hereditary pheochromocytomas, cystic change/necrosis (when assessable on imaging) was present in 18% and 45% of those with cluster 1 (n = 11) and cluster 2 (n = 21) germ-line mutations, respectively.
CONCLUSION. Hereditary pheochromocytomas, compared with sporadic, are detected at a younger age and smaller size, produce lower 24-hour urinary normetanephrines, are less often symptomatic, and may less frequently show cystic change/necrosis.
CLINICAL IMPACT. Imaging findings may complement clinical and biochemical features in raising suspicion for a previously unsuspected germline mutation in patients with pheochromocytoma.
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