How Will My Child Be Tested for Growth Hormone Deficiency?

There are many different ways the physicians at MassGeneral Hospital for Children will test for growth hormone deficiency. The four types of tests include a bone age X-ray, a blood test,  a brain MRI, and a growth hormone stimulation test.

Bone Age X-Ray

Your child's endocrinologists will take an X-ray of your child's left hand and wrist to determine their bone age. The areas in the fingers and wrists contain growth plates and the doctor will be able to tell the maturity of your child's skeletal system based on the appearance of these areas. Children with growth hormone deficiency often have delayed bone age which means they have immature bones relative to their age. For example, your child might be 12-years-old, but his or her bones might have the maturity level expected for a 9-year-old – this would be called a delayed bone age.

Blood Test

Your child may be given a blood test to test the levels of two proteins in their body. These two proteins are called IGF-1 and IGFBP-3. They are made in the body when growth hormone is released. But when your child's growth hormone levels are low, then the levels of these proteins may also be low, indicating that your child has growth hormone deficiency.

Brain MRI

Your child's doctor may conduct a brain MRI, which is a special X-ray that shows if the pituitary gland is growing normally. It also can indicate whether it is safe to treat your child with growth hormone medication.

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