Biochemical tests in the diagnosis of childhood growth hormone deficiency

Vallo Tillmann, John M.H. Buckler, Mohammed S. Kibirige, David A. Price, Stephen M. Shalet, Jeremy K.H. Wales, Michael G. Addison, Mathew S. Gill, Andy J. Whatmore, Peter E. Clayton

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129 Scopus citations


GH stimulation tests are widely used in the diagnosis of GH deficiency (GHD), although they are associated with a high false positive rate. We have examined, therefore, the performance of other tests of the GH axis [urinary GH excretion, serum insulin-like growth factor I(IGF-I), and IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) levels] compared with GH stimulation tests in identifying children defined clinically as GH deficient. Group I comprised 60 children (mean age, 10.3 ± 4.8 yr) whose diagnosis of GHD was based on a medical history indicative of pituitary dysfunction (n = 43) or on the typical phenotypic features and appropriate auxological characteristics of isolated GHD (n = 17). Group II comprised 110 short children (mean age, 9.8 ± 4 yr) in whom GHD was not suspected, but needed exclusion. The best sensitivity for a single GH test was 85% at a peak GH cut-off level of 10 ng/mL, whereas the best specificity was 92% at 5 ng/mL. The sensitivities of IGF-1, IGFBP-3, and urinary GH, using a cut-off of -2 SD score were poor at 34%, 22%, and 25%, respectively, with specificities of 72%, 92%, and 76% respectively. Only 2 of 21 pubertal children in group I and none of the 27 subjects with radiation- induced GHD had an IGFBP-3 SD score less than -1.5. We devised a scoring system based on the positive predictive value of each test, incorporating data from the GH test and the IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 levels. A specificity of 94% could be achieved with a score of 10 or more (maximum 17) (sensitivity 34%). The latter could not be improved above 81% with a score of 5 points or more (specificity, 69%). A high score was, therefore, highly indicative of GHD, but was achieved by few patients. A normal IGFBP-3 level, however, did not exclude GHD, particularly in patients with radiation-induced GHD and those in puberty. A GH test with a peak level more than 10 ng/mL was the most useful single investigation to exclude a diagnosis of GHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-535
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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