Recent advances in the understanding and management of delayed puberty

Christina Wei, Elizabeth Clare Crowne
Archives of Disease in Childhood 2016, 101 (5): 481-8
Delayed puberty, especially in boys, is a common presentation in paediatrics. Recent advances have improved our understanding of the neuroendocrine, genetic and environmental factors controlling pubertal development, and hence inform the pathophysiology of delayed puberty. The discovery of kisspeptin signalling through its receptor identified neuroendocrine mechanisms controlling the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) pulse generator at the onset of puberty. Genetic mechanisms from single gene mutations to single nucleotide polymorphism associated with delayed puberty are being identified. Environmental factors, including nutritional factors and endocrine disruptors, have also been implicated in changes in secular trends and abnormal timing of puberty. Despite these advances, the key clinical question is to distinguish delayed puberty associated with an underlying pathology or hypogonadism from constitutional delay in growth and puberty, which remains challenging as biochemical tests are not always discriminatory. The diagnostic accuracies of newer investigations, including 36-hour luteinising hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) tests, GnRH-agonist tests, antimullerian hormone and inhibin-B, require further evaluation. Sex hormone replacement remains the main available treatment for delayed puberty, the choice of which is largely dictated by clinical practice and availability of the various sex steroid preparations. Spontaneous reversal of hypogonadism has been reported in boys with idiopathic hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism after a period of sex steroid treatment, highlighting the importance of reassessment at the end of pubertal induction. Novel therapies with a more physiological basis such as gonadotrophins or kisspeptin-agonist are being investigated for the management of hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism. Careful clinical assessment and appreciation of the normal physiology remain the key approach to patients with delayed puberty.

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