Growth hormone secretion and effects of growth hormone therapy on growth velocity and weight gain in children with Prader-Willi syndrome

M Angulo, M Castro-Magana, B Mazur, J A Canas, P M Vitollo, M Sarrantonio
Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism: JPEM 1996, 9 (3): 393-400
Obesity, short stature, decreased growth rate and delayed skeletal maturation are common features of children with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). In contrast to PWS, children with simple exogenous obesity have normal or increased growth rate and normal or advanced skeletal maturation. Decreased growth hormone (GH) secretion evaluated by pharmacological or physiological testing associated with increased plasma insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) and GH-binding protein (GH-BP) levels are also characteristic of simple obesity. In order to understand whether the suboptimal GH secretion in PWS is an artifact of the obesity, we studied 33 obese and 11 non-obese PWS children, aged 2-16 years.GH secretion was evaluated with three pharmacological stimuli (insulin, clonidine and L-dopa) and by spontaneous 24-hour GH secretion. Skeletal maturation was delayed in 70% whereas plasma IGF-I and GH-BP were either low or normal. Forty subjects, including ten non-obese children, had GH deficiency by standard testing (failure to respond to two pharmacological stimuli), and all but one had blunted spontaneous 24-h GH secretion. No significant correlation between body mass index (wt/ht2) and spontaneous 24-h GH secretion (r = 0.145), p > 0.06) or GH-BP levels (r = 0.19, p > 0.07) was found. Thirty documented GH deficient children have completed at least two years of GH therapy. With treatment the overall mean height SD and weight SD changed from -2.2 to -0.8 and from 3.5 to 2.4 respectively (p < 0.0001). No patient has developed diabetes mellitus. In conclusion, growth velocity, skeletal maturation, GH secretion and GH dependent proteins in PWS resemble GH deficiency more than simple obesity. Our ongoing study suggests that GH deficiency in PWS is not an artifact of obesity. Although it is unlikely that GH deficiency is the only cause of decreased growth velocity and increased adiposity in PWS, it is a common feature and significant contributory factor. Long term observation will be required until achievement of adult height to determine whether GH therapy actually improves final height.

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