Etiologies and early diagnosis of short stature and growth failure in children and adolescents

J Pediatr. 2014 May;164(5 Suppl):S1-14.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.02.027.


Accurate measurement of height and weight using standardized techniques is a fundamental component of pediatric medical visits. Calculation of height velocity over time enables comparison with standardized growth charts to identify potential deviations from normal. Growth deviations may be expressed as SD from the normal population mean for children of comparable age and sex; children with heights >2 SD below the mean are generally classified as short stature. In a child with suspected impaired growth, a detailed evaluation should be conducted to identify the cause. Such an evaluation may include a combination of personal, family, and social history; physical examination; general and perhaps specialized laboratory evaluations; radiologic examinations; genetic testing; and consultation with a pediatric subspecialist, such as a pediatric endocrinologist. Variants of normal growth include familial short stature, constitutional delay of growth and puberty, and small for gestational age with catch-up growth. Pathological causes of abnormal growth include many systemic diseases and their treatments, growth hormone deficiency, and a series of genetic syndromes, including Noonan syndrome and Turner syndrome. Children with short stature in whom no specific cause is identified may be diagnosed with idiopathic short stature. Early identification of abnormal growth patterns and prompt referral to specialist care offer children with growth failure and/or short stature the greatest chance for appropriate diagnosis, treatment, and improved clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Early Diagnosis*
  • Failure to Thrive*
  • Growth Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Growth Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination / methods*