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HOW DOCTORS CHECK FOR GROWTH DISORDERS

Normal growth is the result of many factors. These include nutrition, genetics, and various hormones. If your pediatrician has concerns about your child's growth, he or she may refer you to a pediatric endocrinologist. This is a specialized doctor who treats growth and hormone problems.

This specialist may order further tests. Examples of some of these tests are provided below. It’s important to remember that each patient is different and only your doctor can decide which tests—if any—are needed.

Most likely, the doctor will start with a review of your child's and your family’s medical history. He or she may also review your child's growth chart and complete a full physical examination.

To help gain a better picture, he or she may also order blood and lab tests. These can be used to rule out possible medical conditions that can cause poor growth.

If the doctor suspects that your child is not making enough growth hormone, he or she may also do a growth hormone stimulation test (or stim test). Here’s what you can expect if your doctor recommends a stim test for your child:

  • An intravenous (IV) needle will be placed into your child's arm or hand. This helps the doctor or nurse to collect more than one blood sample with only one needle prick
  • A medicine will be given to your child through the IV to help your child's body release growth hormone
  • Blood samples will also be taken from this IV at different times over a few hours
  • After the test, the blood samples are sent to a laboratory, to confirm if your child's body produced the expected amount of growth hormone
  • The doctor or nurse can also tell you about any possible side effects. For example, your child may feel tired and want to rest after the test

Other types of tests the doctor may do include:

  • Bone-age x-ray of your child's hand and wrist. This is used to see if his or her bone growth is delayed or advanced compared with other children
  • Genetic tests to identify hereditary diseases affecting growth
  • MRI scan (or CT scan) that shows an image of the pituitary gland to evaluate any changes

These tests can help pinpoint the causes of slow growth in children. As a reminder, only your doctors can decide which tests are needed for your child. If you have concerns about your child's growth, talk to your pediatrician about it. The sooner your child is evaluated, the sooner a treatment plan can begin, and the sooner results may be seen.