Treatment of glucocorticoid-induced growth suppression with growth hormone. National Cooperative Growth Study

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Aug;83(8):2824-9. doi: 10.1210/jcem.83.8.5036.


Growth failure is common during long term treatment with glucocorticoids (GC) due to blunting of GH release, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) bioactivity, and collagen synthesis. These effects could theoretically be reversed with GH therapy. The National Cooperative Growth Study database (n = 22,005) was searched for children meeting the following criteria: 1) pharmacological treatment with GC and GH for more than 12 months, 2) known type and dose of GC, and 3) height measurements for more than 12 months. A total of 83 patients were identified. Monitoring of glucose, insulin, IGF-I, IGF-binding protein-3, type 1 procollagen, osteocalcin, and glycosylated hemoglobin levels was performed in a subset of patients. Stimulated endogenous GH levels were less than 10 microg/L in 51% of patients and less than 7 microg/L in 37% of patients. The mean GC dose, expressed as prednisone equivalents, was 0.5 +/- 0.6 mg/kg day. Baseline evaluation revealed extreme short stature (mean height SD score = -3.7 +/- 1.2), delayed skeletal maturation (mean delay, 3.1 yr), and slowed growth rates (mean, 3.0 +/- 2.5 cm/yr). After 12 months of GH therapy (mean dose, 0.29 mg/kg x weeks), mean growth rate increased to 6.3 +/- 2.6 cm/yr, and height SD score improved by 0.21 +/- 0.4 (P < 0.01). During the second year of GH therapy (n = 44), the mean growth rate was 6.3 +/- 2.0 cm/yr. Prednisone equivalent dose and growth response to GH therapy were negatively correlated (r = -0.264; P < 0.05). Plasma concentrations of IGF-I, IGF-binding protein-3, procollagen, osteocalcin, and glycosylated hemoglobin increased with GH therapy, whereas glucose and insulin levels did not change. The following conclusions were reached. The growth-suppressing effects of GC are counterbalanced by GH therapy; the mean response is a doubling of baseline growth rate. Responsiveness to GH is negatively correlated with GC dose. Glycosylated hemoglobin levels increased slightly, but glucose and insulin levels were not altered by GH therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Height
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Growth Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Growth Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Human Growth Hormone / administration & dosage
  • Human Growth Hormone / adverse effects
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Male
  • Osteocalcin / blood
  • Procollagen / blood
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Procollagen
  • Osteocalcin
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I