​Growth Hormone Deficient Children


The growth hormone is a special hormone produced by the body for regulating growth of body tissues. It is produced by the pituitary gland, which is the master gland of the body and which produces various other hormones. In children who are deficient in growth hormone, the pituitary gland does not produce enough growth hormone, affecting normal growth through infancy and childhood.

Growth hormone deficiency may be partial, in which case the pituitary gland may produce some growth hormone but it may not be enough, or the deficiency may be total, in which case no growth hormone is produced at all.

This disorder may be congenital, which means it may be present at birth due to abnormal formation of the pituitary gland. It may also be caused by any damage to the pituitary gland during or after birth, such as due to infections; brain tumours; injury, surgery, or radiation to the head. Children born with a physical deformity of the face, such as cleft lip or cleft palate are also more susceptible to have lower levels of growth hormones.

Other causes of growth hormone deficiency include decreased nutritional intake, medications, and gastrointestinal disorders, diseases that have increased metabolic demand or hypothyroidism (insufficient production of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland). In some cases, there is no definite cause.


The early symptom of growth hormone deficient children is slow growth in infancy and childhood. This may not be detected till two to three years of age. On a growth chart, the rate of growth of the child will appear slower with a relatively flatter growth curve, and the child will appear much shorter and compared to children of the same age and gender, and may also look chubbier.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • A younger-looking face

  • More fat around the waist

  • Delayed tooth development

  • Short height relative to other children of the same age and gender

Generally, your child’s intelligence will be normal and not affected by a deficiency of the growth hormone. Their body proportions are also normal, though they may appear chubbier.

If you fear that your child’s growth has not been at par with his or her peers, it is recommended that you seek advice from a paediatric endocrinologist working with the Children’s Hospital Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. Reduced levels of the growth hormone can lead to further complications; for instance, it could affect puberty later on.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Your paediatrician will take your child’s medical history, to help identify any genetic predisposition for slow or short growth or whether your child has been diagnosed with any disease which affects growth. Questions about the mother’s pregnancy and delivery, in particular any complications that may have arisen, will also be asked.

Additional tests, such as blood tests to check the level of thyroid hormone may also be requested to rule out the possibility of insufficient thyroid hormone levels affecting growth.

Other diagnostic tests and procedures will include:

  • An X-ray of the hand and wrist to assess your child’s bone development relative to his/ her age

  • Monitoring your child’s growth on a growth chart over a period of time

  • Blood tests to check for the presence of special hormones – e.g. insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which are produced by body tissues, including the liver, as a response to the production of growth hormone.

  • Growth hormone stimulation tests, whereby a growth hormone stimulant is released into the body and the release of growth hormone is monitored over several hours.

If your paediatrician suspects that your child may be growth hormone deficient, a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan and/ or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain may also be requested to help to check the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, which is a section of the brain responsible for hormone production.  

The typical treatment for growth hormone deficiency involves regular injections of synthetic growth hormone, with children receiving injections daily over several years, which is essentially growth hormone therapy.

During the treatment, the child should see his paediatrician regularly for monitoring how the treatment is working and whether the dosage needs to be changed. Starting off the treatment early improves chances that your child will grow to be of his almost normal natural height.

Eating a balanced diet, exercising and sleeping well are also recommended for growth hormone deficient children.

In case the growth hormone deficiency in a child is due to a problem, such as a tumour, in the pituitary gland, treatment method will be focused on that complication, and could include surgery or radiation therapy.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
 
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
 
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.