Background: Growth deficiency and malnutrition in uremic children are often caused by malfunction of the growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) axis and can be corrected by treatment with GH. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the levels of GH, IGF-I and II and their binding proteins compared to changes in body composition in adult, enfeebled, uremic patients in chronic hemodialysis (HD), treated for 6 months with recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH).
Methods: 31 patients were included in a controlled, randomized, double-blinded study using either 4 IU/m2/day of rhGH or placebo injected subcutaneously every evening for 6 months.
Results: Fasting levels of GH were normal at start and increased significantly from 2.2 to 13.5 microg/l (p = 0.01) within the first 4 months of rhGH treatment. Before treatment IGF-I was at the upper limit of normal range (130 to 220 microg/l) in both groups, and it increased significantly from 213 to 348 microg/l (p = 0.01) during rhGH treatment. IGF-II was above the normal range in both groups, and remained unchanged throughout. IGFBP-1 decreased in the rhGH-treated group from 53.1 to 24.7 microg/l (p = 0.004), while IGFBP-3 increased from 5620 to 7100 microg/l (p = 0.004). The molar ratio of IGF-I/IGFBP-3 increased significantly from 14 to 25% (p = 0.01), while the ratio decreased in the placebo group (p = 0.01). During the treatment with rhGH the patients increased their lean body mass (= muscle mass) by a median of 3.18 kg (range 0.82 to 5.12 kg) (p = 0.0001) while their fat mass decreased by a median of 3.33 kg (range 0.18 to 5.82 kg) (p = 0.004). Total body mass (= weight) remained stable. No significant changes were observed in the placebo group.
Conclusion: The baseline GH and IGF-I concentrations were normal in malnourished HD patients. When treated with rhGH in a dosage as used in growth-retarded uremic children, IGF-I increased to the levels seen in acromegalic persons. IGF-I increased more than IGFBP-3 whereby its biological activity obviously improved. This was reflected in an increased muscle mass and a decreased fat mass. The rhGH treatment was well tolerated.