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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Short children who were born prematurely see significant improvements in their height and weight during the first year of treatment with growth hormone, although long-term follow-up is still needed, an international study said.
Approximately 10 percent of all newborns are born premature, said Margaret Boguszewski, lead author of the study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Premature birth is defined as gestation of less than 37 weeks.
"Advances in perinatal care ensure that most of them will survive," she told Reuters Health by email.
"Therefore, concern today is focused on the development and growth of these children. However, even with all the advances in perinatal care... some children born preterm remain smaller than their term-born peers."
Boguszewski, at Hospital de Clinicas, Curitiba, Brazil, and her colleagues noted that growth hormone may be helpful for such children but that prematurity has usually ruled out their participation in clinical trials.
For the study, they identified 3,215 prepubertal children who were born at 37 weeks or less, using data from The Pfizer International Growth Database (formerly the Kabi Pharmacia International Growth Study). The children were receiving growth hormone.
Most were born at 33 to 37 weeks at an age appropriate for gestation, 629 were born before 32 weeks at appropriate weight, 519 had a gestational age of 33 to 37 weeks and were small for their gestational age, and 139 were very premature and small for their gestational age.
The median age at the start of growth hormone treatment ranged from 6 to 7.5 years.
After the first year of treatment, all four groups had a significant increase in weight and height velocity. The highest growth velocity was in the very premature group.
"The conclusion was that short children born prematurely respond well to the first year of growth hormone treatment, with improvement in growth velocity," Boguszewski told Reuters Health.
"Further studies are needed to collect information about long-term growth response, adult height, and the safety of growth hormone therapy in short children after premature birth."
Reporting by Elaine Lies