Few children with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) fail to show catch-up growth during the first year of life. There may be many reasons for this, ranging from disturbances of hormone production to hormonal unresponsiveness of target cells. This report presents preliminary data on growth hormone (GH) secretion and responses to GH treatment in 16 children with IUGR and poor catch-up growth, six of whom had Silver-Russell stigmata. GH secretion was assessed by measurement of the GH response to an arginine-insulin test and determination of spontaneous GH secretion over 24 hours. GH production was heterogeneous but, more often than expected, children showed both a low response to GH provocation and low spontaneous secretion of GH. Five out of six of the children with Silver-Russell syndrome and seven out of 10 of the children with non-Silver-Russell IUGR gained more than 2 cm in height during 1 year of treatment with GH at a dose of 0.1 IU/kg/day. These results clearly demonstrate that some children with IUGR and poor catch-up growth secrete insufficient amounts of GH, and that many of these very short children show an improvement in growth rate during treatment with physiological doses of GH.