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Auxological and endocrinological evaluation of children with hydrocephalus and /or meningomyelocele

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Short stature and precocious puberty are frequently found in children with hydrocephalus and/or meningomyelocele (MMC). However, aetiology and pathophysiology have not been well characterized. In this study, 108 patients aged between 3 and 17.8 years were evaluated. Growth was documented on the basis of arm span measurements. Short arm span was found in 47 (43.5%) children with hydrocephalus and/or MMC. Mean arm span was −2.0 standard deviation score (SDS) (−6.4 to +0.8) in 43 girls and −1.4 SDS (−5.6 to +1.3) in 65 boys. When growth deficiency (more than −2.0 SDS) was diagnosed by arm span measurement (24 F, 23 M) or when early sexual maturation was found (6 F, 9 M), endocrine evaluation followed. Levels of serum insulin-like growth factor and insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 were low in 22 of 62 (33.8%) patients. In 9 of 62 (14.5%) patients, insulin-like growth factor-1 and insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 levels were found to be increased. Growth hormone (GH) deficiency was diagnosed by means of two different stimulation tests (clonidine and arginine) in 7 of 62 (11.3%) patients. In another 3 of 62 (4.8%) children, 12 h night time GH sampling showed low maximum peak levels and decreased area under the curve values, suggesting neurosecretory GH dysfunction.

Precocious puberty or early onset of puberty associated with elevated luteinising hormone and follicle stimulating hormone concentrations after stimulation with luteinising hormone releasing hormone was found in 13 of 108 (12.0%) patients (age 7–9 years). Free thyroxine was abnormally low in 2 of 62 (3.2%) patients. Cortisol was within the normal range in all 62 (100%) tested patients.

Conclusions Short arm span in children with hydrocephalus and/or MMC is frequently accompanied by GH deficiency or neurosecretory GH dysfunction. Early onset of puberty is another frequent finding. Both hormonal disorders may be the consequence of damage to the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland caused by increased intracerebral pressure or increased mass of cerebrospinal fluid.

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Received: 31 May 1996 / Accepted: 21 October 1996

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Hochhaus, F., Butenandt, O., Schwarz, H. et al. Auxological and endocrinological evaluation of children with hydrocephalus and /or meningomyelocele. Eur J Pediatr 156, 597–601 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004310050672

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  • Key words Growth hormone deficiency
  • Meningomyelocele
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Precocious puberty