Crohn's disease and growth deficiency in children and adolescents

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 7;20(37):13219-33. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i37.13219.


Nutritional concerns, linear growth deficiency, and delayed puberty are currently detected in up to 85% of patients with Crohn's disease (CD) diagnosed at childhood. To provide advice on how to assess and manage nutritional concerns in these patients, a Medline search was conducted using "pediatric inflammatory bowel disease", "pediatric Crohn's disease", "linear growth", "pubertal growth", "bone health", and "vitamin D" as key words. Clinical trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses published between 2008 and 2013 were selected to produce this narrative review. Studies referring to earlier periods were also considered if the data was relevant to our review. Although current treatment strategies for CD that include anti-tumor necrosis factor-α therapy have been shown to improve patients' growth rate, linear growth deficiencies are still common. In pediatric CD patients, prolonged diagnostic delay, high initial activity index, and stricturing/penetrating type of behavior may cause growth deficiencies (in weight and height) and delayed puberty, with several studies reporting that these patients may not reach an optimal bone mass. Glucocorticoids and inflammation inhibit bone formation, though their impact on skeletal modeling remains unclear. Long-term control of active inflammation and an adequate intake of nutrients are both fundamental in promoting normal puberty. Recent evidence suggests that recombinant growth factor therapy is effective in improving short-term linear growth in selected patients, but is of limited benefit for ameliorating mucosal disease and reducing clinical disease activity. The authors conclude that an intense initial treatment (taking a "top-down" approach, with the early introduction of immunomodulatory treatment) may be justified to induce and maintain remission so that the growth of children with CD can catch up, ideally before puberty. Exclusive enteral nutrition has a key role in inducing remission and improving patients' nutritional status.

Keywords: Bone health; Enteral nutrition; Growth; Height; Linear growth; Pediatric Crohn’s disease; Pediatric inflammatory bowel disease; Pubertal growth; Vitamin D; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Age Factors
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Body Height
  • Bone Development
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crohn Disease / complications*
  • Crohn Disease / diagnosis
  • Crohn Disease / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Growth Disorders / diagnosis
  • Growth Disorders / drug therapy
  • Growth Disorders / etiology*
  • Growth Disorders / physiopathology
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Status
  • Puberty, Delayed / etiology
  • Puberty, Delayed / physiopathology
  • Remission Induction
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult


  • Biological Products
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Human Growth Hormone

Supplementary concepts

  • Pediatric Crohn's disease