In adults, growth hormone (GH) deficiency is associated with increased visceral adiposity, decreased lean body mass, bone mineral density and exercise capacity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, increased cardiometabolic and fracture risk, and impaired quality of life. The aim of the present article is to review the diagnosis of GH deficiency in adults. To avoid overdiagnosis of GH deficiency, it is critical to evaluate only patients at risk for pituitary dysfunction, including those who have had sellar masses, pituitary surgery, radiation therapy, traumatic brain injury, subarachnoid hemorrhage or childhood onset GH deficiency. Evaluation for GH deficiency should be undertaken after testing and replacement of other pituitary hormone deficits. Since GH secretion is pulsatile, measuring serum GH levels randomly is not helpful in establishing the diagnosis of GH deficiency. Serum insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) levels lack substantial diurnal variation but also lack sufficient sensitivity and specificity in the diagnosis of GH deficiency in adults. However, adults with multiple (≥3) additional pituitary hormone deficiencies, risk factors for hypopituitarism and low serum IGF-I levels are very likely to be GH deficient. In most cases, the diagnosis of GH deficiency requires stimulation testing. These tests involve the administration of a pharmacologic agent that normally stimulates GH release from pituitary somatotrophs, including insulin, glucagon, growth hormone releasing hormone-arginine or macimorelin, followed by sampling of serum specimens at regular intervals for GH assay. Patients with a peak GH level that is below a predetermined cutpoint are classified as GH deficient. A systematic approach to the diagnosis of GH deficiency is essential in order to accurately identify adults who may benefit from GH replacement.
Keywords: Glucagon; Growth hormone deficiency; Growth hormone releasing hormone; Insulin; Insulin-like growth factor I; Macimorelin.