Background: Obesity and hypotonia in children with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) are accompanied by abnormal body composition and diminished energy expenditure resembling a growth hormone deficient state. Hypothalamic dysfunction in PWS often includes decreased growth hormone (GH) secretion, suggesting a possible therapeutic role for exogenous GH treatment.
Objectives and methods: After 6 months of observation to determine baseline growth rate, and with the use of a 12-month randomized controlled study design, the effects of GH treatment (1 mg/m2/d) on growth, body composition, strength and agility, pulmonary function, resting energy expenditure (REE), and fat utilization were assessed in 54 children with PWS (n = 35 treatment and n = 19 control). Percent body fat and bone mineral density were measured by dual x-ray absorptiometry. Indirect calorimetry was used to determine REE and to calculate respiratory quotients.
Results: Stimulated levels of GH in response to clonidine testing were low in all patients (peak, 2.0 ng/mL). After 12 months, GH-treated subjects showed significantly increased height velocity Z scores (mean, 1.0 1.7 to 4.6 2.9; P <.001), decreased percent body fat (mean, 46.3% 8.4% to 38.3% 10.7%; P <.001), and improved respiratory muscle function, physical strength, and agility (sit-ups, weight-lifts, running speed, and coordination). A significant decline in respiratory quotients occurred during GH therapy (0.81 to 0.77, P <.001), but total REE did not change.
Conclusions: GH treatment of children with PWS accelerated growth, decreased percent body fat, and increased fat oxidation but did not significantly increase total REE. Improvements in respiratory muscle strength, physical strength, and agility also occurred, suggesting that GH treatment may have value in reducing some physical disabilities experienced by children with PWS.