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Children, Growth Hormone, & Possible Risk Later

Parents should discuss pros and cons of treatment with their child's doctor, researchers suggest

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Barbara Bronson Gray

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are prescribed human growth hormone may be at greater risk of a stroke in early adulthood than their peers are, a new study suggests.

While the study raises important questions about the safety of human growth hormone treatments, the study's French researchers encouraged parents to discuss the pros and cons of treatment with their child's physician.

"For children and adolescents currently on growth hormone treatment, the treatment should not be stopped, but the doctor prescribing the treatment should be consulted," said study author Dr. Joel Coste, head of the biostatistics and epidemiology unit at Hotel Dieu at the University of Paris.

One expert agreed that the finding should give parents pause.

"The study represents a kind of yellow light that should make people stop and think about [the potential risks]," said Dr. Rebecca Ichord, director of the pediatric stroke program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"People view technology in medicine as a way to fix things, but the bad news is that when we try to fix things sometimes there is a price," said Ichord, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

The research was published online Aug. 13 in the journal Neurology .

Artificial growth hormone is used to treat children and teens when their pituitary gland fails to produce enough natural growth hormone. It is also given to speed up growth and increase height when a child is short, either because of genetic abnormalities, chronic kidney disease, or below-normal signs of growth at birth. Increasingly, growth hormone is being used because parents believe their child might benefit from being taller, according to Coste.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved growth hormone in 1985, Coste noted there is still little known about the potential impact of the hormone on long-term health.

And a recent survey found that an increasing number of U.S. teens are using growth hormone simply to boost their muscles and athletic ability. The percentage of teens who admitted to using growth hormone more than doubled between 2012 and 2013, going from 5 percent to 11 percent, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Survey revealed.

The current research was done as follow-up to a 2012 French study that showed larger numbers of deaths from strokes in those taking growth hormone.

The researchers wanted to dig a little deeper this time. The first study tapped French data on long-term mortality and illness in a mandatory registry for patients treated with growth hormone. The new research analyzed incidence of all stroke subtypes among adults between 2008 and 2010 who were treated as children with growth hormone between 1985 and 1996.

The study included almost 7,000 children born before 1990 who started treatment between 1985 and 1996. From 2008 to 2010, the researchers followed up with health questionnaires and tapped information from medical records and death certificates, if a participant died.

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