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Feature Article

Short stature in infants and children

Maria E Craig

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Abstract

Assessment and monitoring of growth is fundamental in child health. The process of growth assessment requires precise measurements, accurately plotted on appropriate reference charts. While reassurance may be all that is required, early detection of problems provides opportunity for timely intervention.

Key Points

  • Assessment and monitoring of growth plays a fundamental role in child health.
  • Careful measurements, plotting on suitable current reference charts, and interpretation of growth parameters is vital.
  • The wide range of possible causes must be considered in a child with short stature or abnormal growth. These include normal variants (such as constitutional delay), chronic disease, poor nutrition, endocrine diseases, chromosomal disorders and skeletal dysplasias.
  • Poor growth is reflected by an extreme measurement (less than 1st percentile) on a single occasion, or by evidence of marked downward percentile crossing over time.
  • Children with abnormal growth require investigation and assessment by a paediatric endocrinologist, although in many cases education and reassurance may be all that is required.

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