Sex steroid priming for growth hormone stimulation testing in children and adolescents with short stature: A systematic review

Gregor Duncan, Sarah Kiff, Rod T. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Growth hormone stimulation testing (GHST) is used to diagnose growth hormone deficiency (GHD) in children. As sex steroids impact on anterior pituitary function, there is concern around the efficacy of GHST in peripubertal children, where endogenous sex steroid levels are low. Sex steroid priming before GHST is thought to improve test efficacy in these children, however evidence to support its use in clinical practice is limited.

In this systematic review, we addressed the following research questions: Does priming increase GH stimulation test efficacy in peripubertal children? Does priming identify those who would benefit most from treatment in terms of final height? Is there evidence for an optimal sex-steroid priming regimen?

Design, Patients, Measurements

The study was registered with PROSPERO and conducted according to PRISMA guidelines. We searched Medline, Cochrane-Library, Scopus, EMBASE and Web-of-Science and included all studies that included GHST in both primed and unprimed children. A GH cut-off of 7 µg/L was used as a threshold for GHD. Study quality was assessed using the Risk-Of-Bias in Non- Randomized Studies (ROBINS-I) tool or the revised Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for Randomised trials.


Fifteen studies met our inclusion criteria, of which 4/15 (27%) were randomised control trials. The majority (9/15) of the studies indicated that priming increases growth hormone response upon GHST in peripubertal children, increasing test specificity. Two studies investigated final height after treatment based on the results of primed versus unprimed GHST. These results indicate that growth hormone treatment based on results of a primed GHST improve outcomes compared with treatment based on an unprimed test.


Sex-steroid priming increases the growth hormone response during GHST, resulting in fewer patients meeting the threshold required for a diagnosis of GHD. Unnecessary GH treatment may be avoided in some patients without a detrimental effect on final height. Numerous sex-steroid priming regimens have been used in clinical practice and the majority appear to be effective, but an optimal regimen has not been determined.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Early online date14 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2022


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