Growth hormone and the heart

Endocr Rev. 1994 Oct;15(5):555-73. doi: 10.1210/edrv-15-5-555.


GH exerts direct effects on myocardial growth and function. Evidence from laboratory models shows that GH (or IGF-I) induces mRNA expression for specific contractile proteins and myocyte hypertrophy. Furthermore, GH increases the force of contraction and determines myosin phenoconversion toward the low ATPase activity V3 isoform. These data provide plausible explanations for the cardiac abnormalities observed in clinical settings of excessive or defective GH production. In acromegaly, the functional consequences of GH excess initially prevail (hyperkinetic syndrome), followed by alterations of cardiac function when myocardial hypertrophy develops. This involves both ventricles and is purposeless because it occurs without increased wall stress. Hypertrophy also entails proliferation of the myocardial fibrous tissue that leads to interstitial remodeling. The functional consequence is an impaired ventricular relaxation that causes a diastolic dysfunction, followed by impairment of systolic function. In untreated disease, cardiac performance slowly but inexorably deteriorates and heart failure eventually develops. Several lines of evidence support the specificity of heart disease in acromegaly. Particularly demonstrative are the recent studies in which GH production was suppressed by octreotide, with a consequent significant regression of hypertrophy and improvement of cardiac dysfunction. It is not yet established whether full recovery of normal cardiac morphology and function is possible after correction of GH excess. The point is not a minor one since the possibility to revert, albeit partially, myocardial fibrosis is of great relevance to the control of cardiac hypertrophy in general. GHD leads to a reduced mass of both ventricles and to impaired cardiac performance with low heart rate (hypokinetic syndrome). These alterations are particularly evident during physical exercise and might provide an important contribution to the reduced exercise capacity of GHD patients, in addition to the reduced muscle mass and strength. The data also support a role of GH in the maintenance of a normal cardiac structure and performance. The hypokinetic syndrome is well documented in young patients in whom GHD began very early in their childhood. In contrast, the data in adult-onset GHD are less consistent. This suggests that the consequences of GHD are more relevant if the disorder starts during early heart development. As observed with other abnormalities associated with GHD, cardiac dysfunction is also susceptible to marked improvement by hrGH. This observation lends further support to the proposal to treat these patients with replacement therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acromegaly / complications
  • Growth Hormone / deficiency
  • Growth Hormone / physiology*
  • Heart / growth & development
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / physiology


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone