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Pediatrics. 2011 Apr;127(4):696-702. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-1563. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Medically underserved girls receive less evaluation for short stature.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



To determine if gender is associated with diagnostic evaluation by primary care pediatricians caring for children with growth-faltering.


This was a retrospective study of children who were attending 4 urban pediatric primary care practices affiliated with a tertiary pediatric hospital. Growth-faltering was defined as height at the <5th percentile or a z-score decrease of ≥ 1.5 SDs before 18 months of age or ≥ 1 SD thereafter. For each child, height z score, age, gender, race, insurance, diagnostic tests, and subspecialist appointments were examined.


Of 33 476 children, 3007 had growth-faltering (mean height: -1.5 ± 1.0 vs 0.3 ± 0.9 SDs in those without growth-faltering). Boys comprised 53% of the growth-faltering group (vs 51% of the nonfaltering group; P < .01). Among children with growth-faltering, 2.8% had endocrinology appointments (vs 0.8% of others; P < .0001) and 6% had gastroenterology appointments (vs 1.5% of others; P < .0001). Subspecialty care was not associated with gender. Pediatricians ordered diagnostic tests for a significantly greater proportion of children with growth-faltering than others. In multivariate analysis of height z score among children with growth-faltering, tests for chromosomes (1.4% of short girls vs 0.4% of short boys; P < .005) and growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor axis (0.9% of short girls vs 1.8% of short boys; P < .05) were associated with gender. Thirty-five percent of the girls for whom chromosome testing was performed were 12 years old or older.


Patterns in diagnostic testing of children with growth-faltering by their pediatricians may lead to underdiagnosis of Turner syndrome and growth hormone deficiency among girls.

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