Impact of growth hormone therapy on adult height of children with idiopathic short stature: systematic review

BMJ. 2011 Mar 11:342:c7157. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c7157.


Objective: To systematically determine the impact of growth hormone therapy on adult height of children with idiopathic short stature.

Design: Systematic review.

Data sources: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Medline, and the bibliographic references from retrieved articles of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials from 1985 to April 2010.

Data extraction: Height in adulthood (standard deviation score) and overall gain in height (SD score) from baseline measurement in childhood.

Study selection: Randomised and non-randomised controlled trials with height measurements for adults. Inclusion criteria were initial short stature (defined as height >2 SD score below the mean), peak growth hormone responses >10 μg/L, prepubertal stage, no previous growth hormone therapy, and no comorbid conditions that would impair growth. Adult height was considered achieved when growth rate was <1.5 cm/year or bone age was 15 years in females and 16 years in males.

Results: Three randomised controlled trials (115 children) met the inclusion criteria. The adult height of the growth hormone treated children exceeded that of the controls by 0.65 SD score (about 4 cm). The mean height gain in treated children was 1.2 SD score compared with 0.34 SD score in untreated children. A slight difference of about 1.2 cm in adult height was observed between the two growth hormone dose regimens. In the seven non-randomised controlled trials the adult height of the growth hormone treated group exceeded that of the controls by 0.45 SD score (about 3 cm).

Conclusions: Growth hormone therapy in children with idiopathic short stature seems to be effective in partially reducing the deficit in height as adults, although the magnitude of effectiveness is on average less than that achieved in other conditions for which growth hormone is licensed. The individual response to therapy is highly variable, and additional studies are needed to identify the responders.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Height / drug effects*
  • Child
  • Dwarfism / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Human Growth Hormone