Background: Growth failure frequently complicates the clinical course of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children. This study was designed to investigate the role of disease activity versus steroid therapy on growth faltering in this disorder.
Methods: We studied growth failure and its relationship to disease activity and steroid therapy in 69 children who have IBD by prospectively monitoring height for a maximum of 3 years. Disease activity and steroid use were recorded at entry into the study.
Results: The prevalence of growth failure was 24%, 23%, and 39% by height velocity, Z score, and height-for-age criteria, respectively; deficits were equally prevalent regardless of the stage of pubertal development. A delay in linear growth persisted throughout puberty and was not reversed after surgery. Patients who had Crohn's disease were twice as likely to have growth abnormalities than patients who had ulcerative colitis. We detected significant negative associations between linear growth and disease activity but not steroid therapy.
Conclusions: In a unique group of children, growth failure is an early, "prepatterned" manifestation of IBD. The inflammatory process, rather than steroid use, has a predominant influence on the development of growth faltering.