Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD)

What is growth hormone deficiency (GHD)?


Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a medical condition in which the pituitary gland does not produce enough growth hormone (GH).  Growth hormone, also called somatropin, stimulates growth and cell reproduction.  GHD occurs in roughly 1 in 7,000 births and is a symptom of several genetic diseases.  Children who do not meet height and weight growth standards may be affected by GHD.  The condition is treatable, and children diagnosed early often recover well.


The causes of growth hormone deficiency include genetic defects, brain trauma, central nervous system infection, tumors of hypothalamus or pituitary, radiation, and other diseases.  If there is no identifiable cause, it is considered idiopathic. 


Diagnosis. If GHD is suspected, a number of tests can be performed.  Blood tests can measure GH in the body, but are unreliable.  X-rays of the child’s hand can indicate measure of bone growth in the growth plates.  Kidney and thyroid tests can detect problems in production and use of hormones.  MRI will be performed if tumor or damage to pituitary is suspected. GH levels often screened in adults with history of pituitary disorders, have a brain injury, or need brain surgery.


Treatment typically involves daily injections of recombinant growth hormone.  Injections are usually given into the body’s fatty tissues, such as the back of the arms, legs, or buttocks.  Dosage is gradually increased to highest dose during puberty, and discontinued near skeletal maturation.  Patient may need retesting to see if GH is needed as an adult.


GHD by the numbers:

  • GHD occurs in about 1 in every 3,800 births
  • When severe GHD is present from birth and goes untreated, adults can be as short as 48-inches
  • Rates in older children are rising as more children survivie cancers treated with radiotherapy
  • The incidence of adult-onset GHD is estimated at 10 per million
  • During first year of treatment, rate of growth can increase from 1 inch per year to 4.


Pituitary Gland


  • "Growth Hormone Deficiency." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Apr. 2017. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
  • Medically Reviewed by Steven Kim, MD on December 3, 2015 — Written by Joann Jovinelly. "Growth Hormone Deficiency." Healthline. N.p., 03 Dec. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
  • "Growth Hormone Deficiency." NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders). N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
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