The term short stature describes height that is in the third percentile as compared to that of the average height for a person's age, sex, and racial group.
Short stature is generally broken down into three subgroups: familial short stature, constitutional delay and development, and that caused by chronic disease. Familial short stature usually does not require doctor’s care. However, if short stature is related to growth hormone deficiency, the child will need to be treated before reaching puberty to achieve his/her maximum height potential.
Delayed puberty (no spotting by age 15 for a girl or no enlargement of the testes by age 14-15 for a boy)
There are other complications related to short stature, such as obstructed
Your child’s pediatrician will ask about symptoms and medical history. He or she will perform a physical exam to determine height, weight, body proportion (sitting height, trunk-limb proportion), and an exam of craniofacial (skull and face) features.
Tests may include:
Bone age: an x-ray to determine the chronological age of your child’s bones
To check for hypothyroidism–thyroxine (T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
To check growth hormone levels–insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3)
A complete blood count to check for blood diseases
A genetic exam to detect chromosomal abnormalities and to exclude Turner syndrome (a common cause of short stature in girls)
Treatment depends on the cause of short stature. Children with familial short stature do not require treatment.
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy may be used in children with
Growth hormone replacement (Genotropin, Humatrope) may be used in children with growth hormone deficiency,
Prader Willi syndrome
, and Turner syndrome
Surgery may be necessary if the cause of growth hormone deficiency is a brain tumor, a rare possibility.
Short stature cannot be prevented in children who have a familial short stature or those who have a chronic disease. However, in some cases, you can minimize your child’s risk of developing short stature by making sure the child eats a nutritious diet.
Parents can minimize the risk of short stature in their children by eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy and avoiding nonprescription drugs and unsafe sex.
Complications to the condition can be prevented and/or treated if identified early with prenatal testing.
Consensus guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of growth hormone (GH) deficiency in childhood and adolescence: summary statement of the GH Research Society. GH Research Society website.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab
. 2000; 85(11): 3990-3.
Guyda HJ. Four decades of growth hormone therapy for short children: what have we achieved?
J Clin Endocrinol Metab
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Ho NC, Francomano CA. Latest developments in skeletal dysplasias.
Am J Med Genet
. 2001; 106(4).
Lee PA, Chernausek SD, Hokken-Koelega ACS, et al. International Small for Gestational Age Advisory Board Consensus Development Conference Statement: Management of Short Children Born Small for Gestational Age. April 24-October 1, 2001.
. 2003; 111(6):1253-1261.
Little People of America (LPA), Inc. website. Available at:
. Accessed September 2005.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a