Objectives: The physiological role of growth hormone in adult life has recently attracted increased interest. We have studied the clinical effects and the effects on body composition of prolonged replacement with biosynthetic human GH in a large number of hypopituitary adults.
Design: A randomized double blind placebo controlled trial for 6 months followed by an open trial of GH treatment for 12 months. GH daily dose was 0.04 (0.02-0.05) IU/kg s.c.
Patients: Forty GH deficient hypopituitary patients (19 M, 21 F; aged 19-67 years) on conventional replacement therapy were studied.
Measurements: Serum insulin like growth factor I (IGF-I), skinfold thickness, total body potassium, total body water (TBW), exercise tolerance and muscle strength, and well-being.
Results: During the 6-month double blind phase, two GH treated patients withdrew because of adverse events. Lean body mass (LBM) increased and percentage body fat (%BF) decreased on GH but not on placebo (P) (LBM: (GH: from 48.5 +/- 9.6 to 49.6 +/- 9.5 kg; P: from 50.9 +/- 9.2 to 50.1 +/- 9.0 kg, P < 0.05 GH vs P) and %BF (GH: from 34.7 +/- 11.4 to 34.2 +/- 10.7; P: from 37.4 +/- 7.6 to 38.7 +/- 8.1, P < 0.05 GH vs P)). TBW increased on GH (P < 0.01) but not on P. No change was observed in waist-to-hip ratio or in muscle strength. During longer-term follow-up combining the double blind and open phase components of the study, 34, 27 and 11 patients received GH for 6, 12 and 18 months respectively. Patients dropped out because of adverse events or lack of perceived benefit. Skinfold thicknesses decreased significantly at 6 and 12 months and the waist circumference at 6 months. Waist-to-hip ratio decreased significantly on GH at 12 months. LBM increased on GH treatment from 49.6 +/- 9.1 to 51.6 +/- 9.4 kg (P < 0.0006), 51.9 +/- 8.9 kg (P < 0.07) and 53.1 +/- 10.5 kg (P < 0.0001) at 6, 12 and 18 months respectively. Percentage body fat decreased on GH from 37.2 +/- 10.7 to 34.7 +/- 10.1 (P < 0.005), 35.1 +/- 12.8 (NS) and 34.5 +/- 8.6 (P < 0.04) at 6,12 and 18 months respectively. TBW also increased at 6 and 12 months of GH treatment. Exercise time increased significantly at 6, 12 and 18 months of GH treatment. Muscle strength in selected muscle groups increased significantly at 6, 12 or 18 months of GH treatment. Randomization resulted in the placebo group having a greater GHQ score (higher morbidity) than the GH group before therapy. Over the controlled phase, GHQ scores improved on placebo but not on GH and CPRS score was unchanged in either group. In the open phase, the GHQ score did not change on GH therapy but CPRS score improved at 6 and 12 months.
Conclusions: Growth hormone replacement therapy in adults for 6 months increased lean body mass, total body water and exercise tolerance, and decreased body fat. Growth hormone replacement for longer than 6 months maintains the advantageous effects seen in shorter-term studies and may have additional effects on body fat distribution, muscle strength and psychological well-being.