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Growth hormone in patients with cirrhosis: a pilot study of efficacy and safety.

BACKGROUND & AIMS: The protein catabolic state of cirrhosis is associated with severe growth hormone (GH) resistance, with low levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and its major binding protein (IGFBP)-3. The aim of this study was to conduct a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of GH in 20 cirrhotic patients to assess the reversibility of GH resistance and subsequent impact on protein economy and safety.

METHODS: Patients were treated with GH (0.25 IU/kg body wt) or placebo for 7 days. Serum levels of GH, IGF-I, IGFBP-3, and insulin were measured by radioimmunoassay and 24-hour urinary nitrogen by the Kjeldahl technique.

RESULTS: IGF-I levels increased only in the GH-treated group (mean, 69.2 +/- SE 7.0 to 170.6 +/- 48.8 ng/mL; P < 0.05) together with IGFBP-3 (1.65 +/- 0.3 to 2.94 +/- 0.6 mg/L; P < 0.005). Cumulative nitrogen balance similarly improved only in the GH group (2.87-24.16 g; P < 0.05). No significant side effects of GH were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: GH can overcome the GH resistance of cirrhosis. The resulting improvement in nitrogen economy and possible influences on clinical outcomes will need to be confirmed in controlled studies of longer duration.