Treatments for Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children

At Boston Children's Hospital, our physicians are focused on child-centered care, and we're known for our science-driven approach. Our experienced doctors know that growth hormone deficiencies are complex problems that can take different forms from patient to patient. Such an individualized illness may demand several thorough diagnostic tests and treatment specifically tailored to your child.

Typically, treatment of growth hormone deficiency involves receiving regular injections of synthetic human growth hormone and children receive daily injections. Treatment usually lasts several years, although results are often seen as soon as three to four months after the injections are started.

The earlier treatment for growth hormone deficiency is started, the better chance the child will have of attaining her normal or near-normal adult height. However, not all children respond well to growth hormone treatment.

Children who have mutations that make their cells unresponsive to the growth hormone may be treated with injections of synthetic human IGF-1 instead.

  • These injections are reserved for patients who are extremely short and have very low IGF-1 levels, but who passed their growth hormone stimulation testing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that therapy with growth hormone is medically and ethically acceptable for children:

  • with classic growth hormone deficiency
  • awaiting kidney transplantation who have chronic renal insufficiency
  • with Turner syndrome (females)
  • whose extreme short stature prohibits their participation in everyday activities, and who have a condition that will benefit from growth hormone therapy

How safe is treatment for growth hormone deficiency?

While there are many potential side effects, particularly if growth hormone is used to treat children who don't have a true hormone deficiency, researchers generally agree that treatment with human growth hormone is safe and effective. In 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a biosynthetic growth hormone, thus:

  • eliminating the risk of disease transmission from human growth hormone (previously, the only source of this hormone had been from the pituitary glands of the deceased)
  • creating an unlimited supply of the hormone

Please consult your child's physician for more information.

Growth hormone deficiency may make your child feel insecure or self-conscious, and if appropriate, we can also put you in touch with mental health professionals to help with any negative feelings your child may be experiencing.

Coping and support

At Children's, we understand that you may have a lot of questions when your child is diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. How will it affect my child long-term? What do we do next? We've tried to provide some answers to those questions on this site, but there are also a number of other resources to guide you and your family through diagnosis and treatment.

Patient education: From the first office visit, our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer any questions you may have—What is treatment like? Are there any side effects? They will also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Children's.

Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has been treated for growth hormone deficiency? We can often put you in touch with other families who can share their experience.

Social work: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. Your social worker can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as stresses relating to small stature, coping with your child's growth hormone deficiency diagnosis and dealing with financial difficulties.

On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:

  • getting to Children's
  • accommodations
  • navigating the hospital experience
  • resources that are available for your family
Compassionate caregiver
For more than 20 years, Johney Taylor has baked, sautéed, stewed and roasted his signature spice-laden dishes for Boston Children's Hospital's patients and employees. By now, he's used to getting compliments from the Café's customers about the inspired cuisine, but he's always on the lookout for patients who don't seem to be impressed by the day's offerings. Read about how he brightened one boy's mornings.