Pediatric Growth Hormone Deficiency
Children with growth hormone deficiency lack sufficient levels of the growth hormone to help them grow.
Growth hormones are made and controlled by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. In children with a growth hormone deficiency, the pituitary gland doesn’t make enough of the growth hormone, preventing the child from growing at a normal rate.
Growth hormone deficiency can be present at birth (congenital). It also can be the result of an illness, trauma or medical condition such as a brain tumor. Low growth hormone can also contribute to physical defects like cleft lip.
Children with slow growth can sometimes be diagnosed and addressed when the child is still a baby. Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency include:
- Slow growth
- Shorter than children their age
- Younger-looking face
- In young teens (9-11 years of age*) and adolescents (12-17 years of age**), puberty can be delayed.
Test and Diagnosis
Laboratory tests for growth hormone (GH) deficiency will include examining blood levels to show if the problem is caused by the pituitary gland, by the amount of growth hormone in the blood or because of other hormones produced by the pituitary gland.
GH stimulation tests measure the hormone’s level after your child receives a medication that triggers the release of GH, such as arginine or GH-releasing hormone.
Other tests may be used to help diagnose the disease and also look for other problems triggered by a lack of GH. These include:
- A dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan to check for bone thinning
- Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain to look for the size and presence of tumors on the pituitary gland and hypothalamus
- Hand X-rays (typically of the left hand) so your doctor can see bone abnormalities
- X-rays of the head to discern any problems with bone growth of the skull