Risks and Benefits of Growth Hormone Treatment for Babies Born Small for Gestational Age
Presented in National Medical Students Paediatric Conference (NMSPC) 2013, Brighton, UK
Vanessa Albert
University of Bristol, UK
Babies born small for gestational age (SGA) are usually defined as being >2 standard deviations below the normal range. Whilst most of these will demonstrate catch up growth over the first two years of life, 10-15% will still be below their expected percentile at age 4 years, and 50% of these will continue to be small even at final height. The aim of this poster is to discuss the use of growth hormone (GH) treatment in those babies that fail to catch up, reviewing the literature on current risks and benefits.

In those babies born SGA who failed to show catch up growth, GH has been shown to improve final height. There is increased morbidity and mortality associated with being born SGA. For example early neurodevelopment can be affected in these children resulting in cognitive and behavioural impairments. Endocrine and metabolic disturbances are also seen such as reduced insulin sensitivity, obesity and hypertension. It has been demonstrated that GH therapy is beneficial at preventing some of these.

In conclusion, although growth hormone therapy does have some risks, the potential benefits in most cases, out-weighs these. It is important to judge each patient individually taking into account factors such as the cause of the growth retardation. Follow up of long-term surveillance of these patients is needed to create more concrete evidence.
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