Precocious puberty and statural growth

Jean-Claude Carel, Najiba Lahlou, Marc Roger, Jean Louis Chaussain
Human Reproduction Update 2004, 10 (2): 135-47
Precocious puberty results mostly from the precocious activation of the gonadotropic axis. Although the age limits have recently been discussed, most physicians consider that onset of pubertal development before the age of 8 years in a girl or 9 years in a boy warrants at least a clinical and bone age evaluation by a paediatric endocrinologist. The major concern in precocious puberty is the underlying condition, and central nervous system or gonadal neoplasm have to be formally excluded as a first step in the diagnosis. A secondary concern is height, since precocious puberty leads to accelerated growth, accelerated bone maturation and ultimately reduced stature. Precocious puberty is heterogeneous and strict criteria should be used to define it, both in terms of age and in terms of potential for progression. Depot forms of GnRH agonists are now the standard treatment for progressive central precocious puberty and aim at alleviating the clinical symptoms of early pubertal development, their psychological consequences and the effects on growth. Here, we review the consequences of both central and gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty on adult stature and the information available on outcomes using the therapeutic regimens currently available. In girls with progressive precocious puberty, all published evidence indicates a gain of adult height over height predicted before treatment or over untreated historical controls. However, the apparent height gain (derived from the comparison of predicted and actual heights) is very variable, in large part due to the inaccuracy of height prediction methods. In girls with onset of puberty at the lower half of the normal age (8-10 years) distribution, trials using GnRH agonists have given negative results (no benefit of treatment). In boys, precocious puberty is rare and fewer results are available but point in the same direction. The most appropriate time for interrupting the treatment is still controversial. In conclusion, GnRH agonists restore adult height in children when it is compromised by precocious puberty.

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