What is growth hormone deficiency (pediatric)?

Growth hormone deficiency (GHD), also known as dwarfism or pituitary dwarfism, in children is a condition caused by insufficient amounts of growth hormone production by the pituitary gland to stimulate the body to grow. Growth hormone (GH) is a protein made by the pituitary gland, which is located near the base of the brain and attached to the hypothalamus (a part of the brain that helps to regulate the pituitary gland). If the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus is malformed or damaged, it may mean that the pituitary gland can’t produce growth hormone. GHD may occur during infancy (congenital) or later in childhood (acquired). Children with GHD have abnormally short stature with normal body proportions. GHD can be the result of genetic defects, severe brain injury or being born without a pituitary gland.  
Risk factors
Children with GHD may be at risk if they have:
  • Brain injury
  • Radiation treatment to the head
After a complete physical exam, medical history, and ruling out of other conditions with blood tests can be done to measure the levels of growth hormone in the body as well as the levels of other hormones. If GHD is suspected, imaging tests, including X-rays and MRI, of the head may be helpful in narrowing down the underlying disorder causing GHD by revealing abnormalities of the hypothalamus or the pituitary glands. 
Early diagnosis and treatment for GDH may give a child a better chance of attaining their normal or near-normal adult height. However, not all children respond well to growth hormone treatment.




  • GHD occurs in about 1 in every 3,800 births
  • About 3% of children with GHD have siblings with the disorder
  • GHD is 2-3x more common in boys than in girls


Pituitary Gland       


  • 2013, Boston Childrens Hospital. "Programs and Services for Growth Hormone Deficiency." Boston Childrens Hospital. Boston Children's Hospital, n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.
  • "Growth Hormone Deficiency." MAGIC Foundation. The MAGIC Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.
  • "Endocrine Gland Disorders." Child Growth Foundation (CGF) - The UK's Leading Charity Focusing on Children's Growth Conditions: (GHD/MPHD),Sotos Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, (RSS) / (IUGR) / (SGA). Child Growth Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.
  • "Default - Stanford Children's Health." Stanford Children's Health - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. Stanford Children's Health, n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.
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  • "Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children." Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center. University of Rochester Medical Center, n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.


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