A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Stature Growth Complications in β-thalassemia Major Patients

Ann Glob Health. 2021 Jun 8;87(1):48. doi: 10.5334/aogh.3184.


Background: Blood transfusion is a traditional treatment for β-thalassemia (β-thal) that improves the patients' anemia and lifespan, but it may lead to iron overload in parenchymal tissue organs and endocrine glands that cause their dysfunctions as the iron regulatory system can't excrete excess iron from the bloodstream.

Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of iron-related complications (short stature, growth retardation, and growth hormone deficiency) in β-thalassemia major (βTM) patients.

Methods: We performed an electronic search in PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Sciences to evaluate the prevalence of growth hormone impairment in β-thalassemia major (βTM) patients worldwide. Qualities of eligible studies were assessed by the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist for the prevalence study. We used Comprehensive Meta-Analysis (Version 2) to calculate the event rate with 95% CIs, using a random-effects model for all analyses.

Findings: Seventy-four studies were included from five continents between 1978 and 2019; 70.27% (Asia), 16.21% (Europe), 6.75% (Africa), 2.70% (America), 1.35% (Oceania), and 2.70% (Multicenter). The overall mean age of the participants was about 14 years. The pooled prevalence of short stature (ST) was 48.9% (95% CI 35.3-62.6) and in male was higher than female (61.9%, 95% CI 53.4-69.7 vs. 50.9%, CI 41.8-59.9). The pooled prevalence of growth retardation (GR) was 41.1% and in male was higher than in female (51.6%, 95% CI 17.8-84 vs. 33.1%, CI 9.4-70.2). The pooled prevalence of growth hormone deficiency (GHD) was 26.6% (95% CI 16-40.8).

Conclusion: Our study revealed that near half of thalassemia patients suffer from growth impairments. However, regular evaluation of serum ferritin levels, close monitoring in a proper institute, suitable and acceptable treatment methods besides regular chelation therapy could significantly reduce the patients' complications.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Body Height
  • Dwarfism*
  • Endocrine System Diseases*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron Overload / complications*
  • Male
  • beta-Thalassemia* / complications
  • beta-Thalassemia* / epidemiology
  • beta-Thalassemia* / therapy