Growth failure is a difficult but key aspect of care in children with anorexia nervosa (AN). The effects of hGH therapy have not been studied. The aim was to investigate the effect of hGH treatment on height velocity (HV) in children with AN.
We carried out a retrospective observational study. Ten girls diagnosed with AN at 10.0 ± 1.9 years, with prolonged severe growth failure (HV < 2.5 cm/year for at least 18 months) at the age of 13.3 ± 1.1 years and delayed puberty after nutritional rehabilitation, were treated with hGH (0.040 mg/kg/day) from a bone age of 10.9 ± 1.7 years until they reached adult height. Height and HV were measured before treatment and at 12-month intervals during treatment.
Mean body mass index SDS remained unchanged, but HV increased significantly, from a median of 1.0 (0.7–2.1) to 7.1 (6.0–9.5) cm/year after one year (P < 0.002) and 5.6 (4.8–6.2) cm/year after two years of treatment. Height SDS increased from −2.2 ± 1.3 to −1.6 ± 1.3 after one year (P < 0.002) and −1.1 ± 1.5 after two years of GH treatment. Adult height (−0.1 ± 1.0 SDS) was close to target height after 3.6 ± 1.4 years of GH treatment. Serum IGF-I levels increased significantly during treatment (P < 0.01). The treatment was well tolerated.
This proof-of-concept study shows that hGH treatment is associated with significant improvements in linear growth in adolescents with AN and severe growth failure. A randomized placebo-controlled trial is required to determine the ultimate impact of GH treatment in patients with this severe, rare condition.