Use and abuse of human growth hormone

E. Kirk Neely, Ron G. Rosenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Recombinant human growth hormone (hGH) has been available for nearly a decade. Side effects are rare. Its efficacy in promoting growth acceleration has been widely confirmed in children with GH deficiency (GHD), Turner syndrome, idiopathic short stature, chronic renal failure, and a variety of other conditions. The dramatic increase in height velocity in the first year of therapy partially attenuates in subsequent years in all patient groups, and convincing final height data are only available in GHD and Turner syndrome. Pediatric endocrinologists continue to be troubled by definitions of GHD. Although profound GHD is relatively obvious, other patients with severe growth failure but borderline or normal endocrine testing also respond to hGH therapy. Thus many endocrinologists use auxologic criteria [e.g. low growth velocity, height < -3 standard deviation (SD), poor predicted adult height] as the de facto basis for therapy, leading to a blurred distinction between treatment of disease and enhancement of normal characteristics and, finally, raising questions about the ultimate benefit of hGH therapy. Brief clinical trials of hGH therapy in adults both with and without GHD have reported increased muscle mass decreased fat and improvement in quality of life. Internists may soon be faced with treatment decisions analogous to these confronting pediatricians, i.e. whether to use hGH to repair aspects of the normal aging process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-420
Number of pages14
JournalAnnual review of medicine
StatePublished - May 25 1994


  • Turner syndrome
  • hypopituitarism
  • medical ethics
  • short stature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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