Individual sensitivity to growth hormone replacement in adults

Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2021 Mar;22(1):117-124. doi: 10.1007/s11154-020-09605-1. Epub 2020 Oct 7.


The metabolic actions of growth hormone (GH) last a lifetime and involve several physiological functions associated with the control of body composition, energy metabolism, water regulation, immune response, cardiovascular performance, physical and mental work. Adult patients with GH deficiency (GHD) present a constellation of clinical findings, which include increased total and visceral body fat, low bone and muscle mass, reduced muscle strength, impaired anaerobic physical capacity, unfavorable cardiovascular profile, and poor quality of life. Recombinant human GH (rhGH) therapy has been proved to reverse or improve many abnormalities associated with GHD in adult life, but the therapeutic response is highly variable among patients and influenced by multiple factors, which are the main focus of this narrative review. Given the individual sensitivity of adult GHD patients to rhGH replacement, dose regimens evolved from weight-based to individualized dose-titration strategies, which improved efficacy and reduced the frequency of adverse events. Individual tailoring and maintenance doses of rhGH are mainly influenced by age, age at GHD onset, sex, body mass index, baseline GH status, quality of life and other pituitary hormone replacements. In addition, genetic background and poor adherence due to patient or product-related factors might play a role in the responsiveness to rhGH therapy. There have been attempts to develop predictive mathematical models to distinguish good and poor responders to rhGH therapy, but thus far none of them have been prospectively tested and validated in a large cohort of adult GHD individuals.

Keywords: Growth hormone; Growth hormone deficiency; hypopituitarism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy*
  • Human Growth Hormone* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Quality of Life


  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I