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J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 1998;11 Suppl 3:835-44.

Growth and management of short stature in thalassaemia major.

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1st Department of Paediatrics, University of Athens, P. & A. Kyriakou Children's Hospital, Greece.


With modern treatment and longer survival of patients with homozygous beta-thalassaemia endocrine dysfunction assumes greater importance. Short stature, delayed puberty and hypogonadism are major problems in both adolescent and adult patients. Growth failure has been attributed to GH deficiency (hypothalamic or pituitary), hypothyroidism, delayed sexual maturation, hypogonadism, diabetes mellitus, zinc deficit, low Hb levels, bone disorders and desferrioxamine toxicity. The present report concentrates on the incidence of short stature among children aged 7-8 years (n = 50) and young adults aged 20-29 years (n = 93) with blood transfusion dependent homozygous beta-thalassaemia appropriately treated who have entered and completed puberty spontaneously (n = 45) or with treatment (n = 48) and have attained final height. It also concentrates on the role of GH in the growth retardation of 65 blood transfusion dependent thalassaemia major patients, their GH response to provocative stimulation, the effect of rhGH therapy on growth and final height in 13 patients who had GH deficiency and the effect of long acting androgens on growth and final height of 11 short boys with thalassaemia major, delayed puberty and normal GH secretion.


8% of young boys with thalassaemia major aged 7-8 years have short stature. 12% of the older boys and 15% of the older girls without endocrinopathies had height < 3rd percentile. This incidence was 29% when endocrinopathies were present. GH deficiency is rare among short blood transfusion dependent thalassaemia major patients (20%) and seems to play a limited role in the etiology of growth retardation. One year treatment with rhGH improved growth rate and predicted height without causing serious metabolic problems. Long term administration of rhGH is also safe and promising. Patients with thalassaemia major can achieve acceptable final heights but below their target heights with rhGH therapy. Low dose long acting sex steroid treatment in boys with delayed puberty, delayed bone age and without GH deficiency for a year or more is safe and can produce similar results to those obtained with rhGH therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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