Early human development vol:81 issue:12 pages:973-80
Being born small for gestational age (SGA) is one of the most common causes of childhood short stature, and recombinant GH therapy has been recently licensed to promote growth in short SGA children from the age of 4 years old. Studies are now reporting very encouraging effects on adult height gains, especially in those children who started GH therapy early, at least 2 years prior to the onset of puberty. Compared to the age at starting treatment, the GH dose has a less significant impact on final height, and more attention needs to be paid now to identify earlier those SGA children who fail to catch-up spontaneously. The benefits are not just in terms of height, but also in body composition and possibly blood pressure and lipid levels. However the risk of side effects and long-term complications, particularly related to the expected metabolic effects of GH in inducing insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia, need to be carefully monitored especially in SGA children with a family history of type 2 diabetes. Recently, GH therapy was found to amplify the adrenarche of short SGA children and to induce a pro-inflammatory shift, as judged by a rise of neutrophil count and circulating interleukin-6 (IL-6), and a fall in adiponectin levels. Further progress is anticipated to assess the addition of insulin-sensitizing therapy to attenuate the GH-induced hyperinsulinemia, in order to alter the pro-inflammatory course, to avoid excessive release of adrenal androgens, and to slow down the potential rapid tempo of pubertal progression in SGA children. In the meantime, post-SGA short stature is rapidly becoming one of the prime indications for GH therapy in childhood.