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What is the value of growth hormone therapy in Prader Willi syndrome?
  1. Nicola Bridges
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicola Bridges, Chelsea Children's Hospital, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Fulham Road, London SW10 9NH, UK; n.bridges{at}


Prader Willi syndrome (PWS) is a genetic condition caused by loss of the paternal copy of a region of imprinted genes on chromosome 15. There is severe muscular hypotonia in the neonatal period, with the onset of hyperphagia and food-seeking behaviour in childhood. All individuals with PWS have developmental delay. Without careful control of food intake and the food environment, individuals with PWS become morbidly obese and are likely to die as young adults from the complications of obesity. The aims of growth hormone (GH) treatment in PWS are distinct from the use of GH in other conditions—although GH does increase final height in PWS, the main benefits of treatment are improved body composition and better exercise capacity, which can help with the aim of preventing obesity. GH trials in PWS have demonstrated improved muscle bulk, reduced fat mass and increased levels of physical activity. GH has also been demonstrated to improve attainment of developmental and cognitive milestones in children with PWS. GH treatment appears to change respiratory status in PWS, possibly because of growth of lymphoid tissue at the start of treatment. Respiratory assessment is recommended prior to, and just after starting GH treatment. Ideal age for starting GH is not clear, although there has been a trend towards starting at younger ages. It may be that GH treatment in childhood confers benefits into adult life. There are less data to support continuing GH treatment into adult life.

  • Prader Willi syndrome
  • growth hormone
  • hyperphagia
  • obesity

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