Severe growth retardation and profoundly altered body composition are observed in children treated with glucocorticoids for systemic forms of juvenile chronic arthritis. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of 1 year of treatment with growth hormone (GH) on height velocity and body composition, and the potential effects of such treatment on glucose tolerance. Fourteen children receiving steroid therapy for juvenile chronic arthritis were treated with GH, 1.4 IU/kg/week (0.47 mg/kg/week), for 1 year and were then followed up for 1 year after cessation of treatment. Baseline GH secretion and plasma levels of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) were at the lower limit of normal, but increased with GH treatment. During the year of GH treatment, mean height velocity increased from 1.9 to 5.4 cm/year (p < 0.001), mean lean body mass increased by 12% (p < 0.01) and mean fat mass fell by 20% (p < 0.01) compared with baseline. Decreased glucose tolerance and increased glycosylated haemoglobin levels were also observed. This may have been a result of insulin resistance, as indicated by induced hyperinsulinaemia. Following the 1-year GH treatment period, height velocity fell to pretreatment values, and the height SDS at the end of the second year was lower (p < 0.01) than before treatment. Weight and fat mass increased markedly after cessation of GH treatment. These results suggest that GH may partially counteract the adverse effects of glucocorticoids on growth and metabolism in patients with chronic inflammatory disease. Long-term controlled studies are needed to determine the risks and benefits of GH therapy in such patients.