Background: Short-term administration of growth hormone to children with idiopathic short stature results in increases in growth rate and standard-deviation scores for height. However, the effect of long-term growth hormone therapy on adult height in these children is unknown.
Methods: We studied 121 children with idiopathic short stature, all of whom had an initial height below the third percentile, low growth rates, and maximal stimulated serum concentrations of growth hormone of at least 10 microg per liter. The children were treated with growth hormone (0.3 mg per kilogram of body weight per week) for 2 to 10 years. Eighty of these children have reached adult height, with a bone age of at least 16 years in the boys and at least 14 years in the girls, and pubertal stage 4 or 5. The difference between the predicted adult height before treatment and achieved adult height was compared with the corresponding difference in three untreated normal or short-statured control groups.
Results: In the 80 children who have reached adult height, growth hormone treatment increased the mean standard-deviation score for height (number of standard deviations from the mean height for chronologic age) from -2.7 to -1.4. The mean (+/-SD) difference between predicted adult height before treatment and achieved adult height was +5.0+/-5.1 cm for boys and +5.9+/-5.2 cm for girls. The difference between predicted and achieved adult height among treated boys was 9.2 cm greater than the corresponding difference among untreated boys with initial standard-deviation scores of less than -2, and the difference among treated girls was 5.7 cm greater than the difference among untreated girls.
Conclusion: Long-term administration of growth hormone to children with idiopathic short stature can increase adult height to a level above the predicted adult height and above the adult height of untreated historical control children.