St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Growth hormone deficiency - children

    Pituitary dwarfism; Acquired growth hormone deficiency; Isolated growth hormone deficiency;Congenital growth hormone deficiency; Panhypopituitarism

    Growth hormone deficiency means the pituitary gland does not make enoughgrowth hormone.


    The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain. This gland controls the body’s balance of hormones. It also makes growth hormone. This hormone causes a child to grow.

    Growth hormone deficiency may be present at birth (congenital). Or it may be the result of medical condition. Severe brain injury may also cause growth hormone deficiency.

    Children with physical defects of the face and skull, such as cleft lip or cleft palate, may have decreased growth hormone levels.

    Most of the time, the cause of growth hormone deficiency is unknown.


    Slow growth may first be noticed in infancy and continue through childhood. The pediatrician will usually draw the child's growth curve on a growth chart. Children with growth hormone deficiency have a slow or flat rate of growth. The slow growth may not show up until a child is 2 or 3 years old.

    The child will be much shorter than most children of the same age and gender. The child will still have normal body proportions though body build may be chubby. Often the child’s face looks younger than children of the same age. The child will usually have normal intelligence.

    In older children, puberty may come late or may not come at all, depending on the cause.

    Exams and Tests

    A physical examination, including weight, height, and body proportions, will show signs of slowed growth rate. The child will not follow the normal growth curves.

    Hand x-ray can determine bone age. Normally, the size and shape of bones change as a person grows. These changes can be seen on an x-ray and usually follow a pattern as a child grows older.

    Testing is usually done after the pediatrician has looked into other causes of poor growth. Tests that may be done include:

    Growth hormone causes the body to make insulin-like growth factor (IGF1) and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP3). Tests can measure these growth factors.Accurate growth hormone deficiency testings involves a stimulation test. This test takes several hours.

    MRI of the head can show the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

    Tests to measure other hormone levels may be done because lack of growth hormone may not be the only problem.


    Treatment involves growth hormone shots (injections) given at home. The shots are usually given once a day. Older children can often learn how to give themselves the shot.

    Treatment with growth hormone is long-term, often several years. During this time, the child needs to be seen regularly by the doctor to ensure treatment is working and to change the dosage of the medicine if needed.

    Serious side effects of growth hormonetreatment are rare. Common side effects include:

    • Headache
    • Fluid retention
    • Muscle and joint aches
    • Slippage of the bones at the hip

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    The earlier the condition is treated, the better the chance that a child will grow to near-normal adult height. Many children gain 4 or more inches over the first year and 3 or more inches during the next 2 years. The rate of growth then slowly decreases.

    Growth hormone therapy does not work for all children.

    Left untreated, growth hormone deficiency may lead to short stature and delayed puberty.
    Growth hormone deficiency can occur with deficiencies of other hormones such as those that control:

    Production of thyroid hormones

    Water balance in the body

    Production of male and female sex hormones

    The adrenal glands and their production of cortisol, DHEA, and other hormones

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if your child seems abnormally short for his or her age.


    Most cases are not preventable.

    Review your child's growth chart withthe pediatrician at each check-up. If there is concern about your child's growth rate, evaluation by a specialist is recommended.


    Cooke DW, Divall SA, Radovick S. Normal and aberrant growth. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011: chap 24.

    Parks JS, Felner EI. Hypopituitarism. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 551.


    • Endocrine glands


    • Height/weight chart


      • Endocrine glands


      • Height/weight chart


      A Closer Look

      Self Care

        Tests for Growth hormone deficiency - children

        Review Date: 9/9/2013

        Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

        A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

        Back  |  Top
        About Us
        Contact Us
        Locations & Directions
        Quality Reports
        Annual Reports
        Honors & Awards
        Community Health Needs

        Brain & Spine
        Sleep Medicine
        Urgent Care
        Women's Services
        All Services
        Patients & Visitors
        Locations & Directions
        Find a Physician
        Tour St. Luke's
        Patient & Visitor Information
        Contact Us
        Payment Options
        Financial Assistance
        Send a Card
        Mammogram Appointments
        Health Tools
        My Personal Health
        Spirit of Women
        Health Information & Tools
        Clinical Trials
        Employer Programs -
        Passport to Wellness

        Classes & Events
        Classes & Events
        Spirit of Women
        Donate & Volunteer
        Giving Opportunities
        Physicians & Employees
        For Physicians
        Remote Access
        Medical Residency Information
        Pharmacy Residency Information
        Physician CPOE Training
        St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
        Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile