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Ann Surg. 1993 Oct;218(4):400-16; discussion 416-8.

Anabolic therapy with growth hormone accelerates protein gain in surgical patients requiring nutritional rehabilitation.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.



The authors investigated the effects of exogenous growth hormone (GH) on protein accretion and the composition of weight gain in a group of stable, nutritionally compromised postoperative patients receiving standard hypercaloric nutritional therapy.


A significant loss of body protein impairs normal physiologic functions and is associated with increased postoperative complications and prolonged hospitalization. Previous studies have demonstrated that standard methods of nutritional support enhance the deposition of fat and extracellular water but are ineffective in repleting body protein.


Fourteen patients requiring long-term nutritional support for severe gastrointestinal dysfunction received standard nutritional therapy (STD) providing approximately 50 kcal/kg/day and 2 g of protein/kg/day during an initial 7-day equilibrium period. The patients then continued on STD (n = 4) or, in addition, received GH 0.14 mg/kg/day (n = 10). On day 7 of the equilibrium period and again after 3 weeks of treatment, the components of body weight were determined; these included body fat, mineral content, lean (nonfat and nonmineral-containing tissue) mass, total body water, extracellular water (ECW), and body protein. Daily and cumulative nutrient balance and substrate oxidation studies determined the distribution, efficiency, and utilization of calories for protein, fat, and carbohydrate deposition.


The GH-treated patients gained minimal body fat but had significantly more lean mass (4.311 +/- 0.6 kg vs. 1.988 +/- 0.2 kg, p < or = 0.03) and more protein (1.417 +/- 0.3 kg vs. 0.086 +/- 0.1 kg, p < or = 0.03) than did the STD-treated patients. The increase in lean mass was not associated with an inappropriate expansion of ECW. In contrast, patients receiving STD therapy tended to deposit a greater proportion of body weight as ECW and significantly more fat than did GH-treated patients (1.004 +/- 0.3 kg vs. 0.129 +/- 0.2 kg, p < 0.05). GH administration altered substrate oxidation (respiratory quotient = 0.94 +/- 0.02 GH vs. 1.17 +/- 0.05 STD, p < or = 0.0002) and the use of available energy, resulting in a 66% increase in the efficiency of protein deposition (13.37 +/- 0.8 g/1000 kcal vs. 8.04 g +/- 3.06 g/1000 kcal, p < or = 0.04).


GH administration accelerated protein gain in stable adult patients receiving aggressive nutritional therapy without a significant increase in body fat or a disproportionate expansion of ECW. GH therapy accelerated nutritional repletion and, therefore, may shorten the convalescence of the malnourished patient requiring a major surgical procedure.

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