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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Oct;85(10):3762-9.

Effects of 7 years of growth hormone replacement therapy in hypopituitary adults.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Physics, Imperial College School of Medicine, St. Mary's Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Short-term studies of GH replacement in adult hypopituitarism have usually demonstrated beneficial effects on body composition and circulating lipids, with neutral or occasionally adverse effects on glucose tolerance. Fasting hyperinsulinemia has been reported. GH effects on cardiac function have been variable. The effects of long-term GH therapy, taking into account the consequences of increasing age, are not fully known. Thirty-three hypopituitary, initially middle-aged adults were studied over a 7-yr period; 12 patients took GH therapy (mean, 0.7 mg daily) continuously (group A); 11 took GH for only 6-18 months, a minimum of 5 yr previously (group B); and 10 patients never received GH therapy (group C). Other pituitary replacement was maintained. Effects on anthropometry, body composition (by bioimpedance analysis, total body potassium, and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry), circulating lipids, glucose and insulin concentrations, cardiac 2-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography, and exercise tolerance were assessed before and after the treatment period. Continuous GH therapy had no significant effect on body weight, but it prevented the increase in waist circumference and waist to hip ratio that occurred in the patients without GH substitution (waist to hip ratio, group A, 0.87+/-0.08 at baseline, 0.85+/-0.09 at 7 yr; group B, 0.89+/-0.11 at baseline, 0.94+/-0.11 at 7 yr; P < 0.005 for GH effect; group C, 0.87+/-0.10 at baseline, 0.92+/-0.10 at 7 yr; P < 0.005 for GH effect). A GH-induced decrease in subscapular skinfold thickness was also observed. By bioimpedance analysis, GH therapy caused an increase in total body water and fat-free mass, and a decrease in the percent body fat. Although changes occurred with time in all groups, no significant additional GH therapy effects were observed on glucose tolerance, insulin concentrations, lipid levels, cardiac dimensions, echocardiographic diastolic function, or exercise tolerance. In conclusion, prolonged GH substitution in middle-aged hypopituitary adults causes a sustained improvement in body composition. Other benefits, e.g. on lipid levels and exercise tolerance, were not apparent at 7 yr when comparisons were made with GH-untreated hypopituitary controls. Potentially adverse effects on glucose tolerance and insulinemia did not develop with prolonged GH therapy.

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