Growth hormone deficiency

Growth hormone deficiency is often caused by a disorder in the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland and produces a number of negative consequences for both children and adults, including delayed growth and metabolic disorders, etc. Learn more about the condition, its diagnosis and the different treatment options available.

To confirm the diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency, a doctor measures the level of growth hormone in the blood. This level varies from hour to hour: growth hormone is secreted in bursts throughout the day, with peak secretion occurring during sleep. Therefore blood must either be drawn at regular intervals for testing, or a stimulant of growth hormone secretion may be used (stimulation test) to compare the levels against the benchmark.

The following tests are recommended:

  • IGF- I (hormone secreted by the liver in a feedback loop with growth hormone) test: a blood sample is taken to measure IGF-I hormone levels to provide an indirect indicator of the level of growth hormone produced by the body. The dosage also varies and is adjusted by age (and possibly sex).
  • Growth hormone stimulation test: secretion of the hormone is stimulated by a number of different substances, including insulin and glucagon – two hormones that stimulate the pituitary – and the level in the blood is measured.

In addition, a brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be ordered to give images of the hypothalamus and pituitary region and confirm a diagnosis of a hypothalamus-pituitary abnormality.

Even though these tests are possible, growth hormone deficiency in children is usually diagnosed late (8.48 ± 4.3 years in boys and 6.9 ± 3.8 years in girls), because of the period of time needed for the problem to become apparent to family and/or medical staff. Late diagnosis has many negative consequences for patients:

  • short stature and associated psychological problems,
  • reduced life expectancy in adulthood because of the increased frequency of ischemic heart disease (insufficient blood flow to the heart),
  • increased risk of fracture associated with osteoporosis.

In children, it is especially important to check for other related hormone deficiencies.

One in 4,000 to 10,000

affected by the condition


Usually late

Last update 13/04/2017