Health News

Growth hormone produces modest height gain

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For short kids, treatment with growth hormone leads to height increases of up to 7.5 centimeters (just under 3 inches), but the majority of these children will remain shorter than their peers.

Dr. Jackie R. Bryant of the University of Southampton, UK and colleagues came to this conclusion after studying data from 10 trials involving 741 children with unexplained short stature.

Growth hormone was given for a minimum of 6 months, and the results were compared with no treatment or an inactive placebo. The results appear in the current online issue of The Cochrane Library, which is published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

One trial reported a near-final height increase of 7.5 centimeters in girls compared with untreated “controls.” Another found that children treated with growth hormone were 3.7 centimeters taller than children in a placebo-treated group. The other trials reported short-term outcomes.

Only one of the studies, the investigators add, considered quality-of-life issues. This study found “no evidence to support the commonly held assumption that growth hormone treatment improves health-related quality of life.”

In addition, another study found no significant evidence that recombinant growth hormone treatment affects psychological well-being or self-esteem in these children.

No serious adverse effects of treatment were reported, but the researchers note that these cannot be ruled out.

The team points out that growth and height are dependent upon hormonal factors and genetic factors, and these have to be considered in setting a realistic goal for growth hormone treatment.

Commenting on the findings, Bryant told Reuters Health that “recombinant growth hormone treatment involves injections six to seven times per week for several years.” Furthermore, it seems that being short is not associated with psychological problems, and that growth hormone does not improve quality of life.

“These factors,” she concluded, “plus the cost of treatment, which is substantial, make it unclear whether the small expected gain in height justifies such treatment in children who are not ill.”