Background: Obesity and hypotonia in children with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) are accompanied by abnormal body composition resembling a growth hormone (GH) deficient state. Hypothalamic dysfunction in PWS includes decreased GH secretion, suggesting a possible therapeutic role for GH treatment. While recent studies have demonstrated short-term benefits of treatment with GH, a critical question is whether beneficial changes persist or wane with prolonged therapy, and whether these effects on body composition are dose-dependent as seen in adult GH deficiency.
Objectives and methods: After 24 months of GH theapy at a dose of 1 mg/m2/day ("standard dose"), the effects of 12 additional months of GH treatment at varying doses (0.3-1.5 mg/m2/day) on growth, body composition, strength and agility, pulmonary function, resting energy expenditure (REE), and fat utilization were assessed in 46 children with PWS. Percent body fat, lean muscle mass, and bone mineral density (BMD) were measured by dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Indirect calorimetry was used to determine REE and to calculate respiratory quotient (RQ).
Results: During months 24-36 of GH therapy, further changes in body composition (decrease in fat mass, and increase in lean body mass), growth velocity, and REE occurred with standard and higher-dose GH therapy (1.5 mg/m2/day), but not with lower dose GH (0.3 mg/m2/day). Prior improvements in BMD, and strength and agility, which occurred during the initial 24 months, were sustained during the additional 12 months (to 36 months) regardless of dose.
Conclusions: Salutary and sustained GH-induced changes in growth, body composition, and physical function in children with PWS require GH doses of >0.3 mg/m2/day. Conversely, BMD increased during the additional 12 months of therapy regardless of GH dose. Lower doses of GH, effective in improving body composition in adults with GHD, do not appear to be effective in children with PWS.