Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most dwarfism treatments don't increase stature but may alleviate problems caused by complications.

Common surgical treatments

Surgical procedures that may correct problems with bones in people with disproportionate dwarfism include:

  • Inserting metal staples into the ends of long bones where growth occurs (growth plates) in order to correct the direction in which bones are growing
  • Dividing a limb bone, straightening it and inserting metal plates to hold it in place
  • Inserting rods or staples to help correct the shape of the spine
  • Increasing the size of the opening in bones of the spine (vertebrae) to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord

Limb lengthening

Some people with dwarfism elect to undergo limb-lengthening surgery. With this procedure, the surgeon divides a long bone into two or more sections, separates the sections slightly and braces the bone and limb with external metal "scaffolding." Pins and screws on this frame are periodically adjusted to keep tension between the sections, enabling the bone to grow back together gradually into a complete but longer bone.

This procedure is controversial for many people with dwarfism because, as with all surgeries, there are risks, and because the "correction" in stature may imply there's something wrong with being short.

Hormone therapy

Growth hormone deficiency is treated with injections of a synthetic version of the hormone. In most cases, children receive daily injections for several years until they reach a maximum adult height — often within the average adult range for their family. Treatment may continue throughout adolescence and early adulthood to ensure adult maturation, such as appropriate gain in muscle or fat. The treatment may be supplemented with other related hormones if they are also deficient.

Treatment for girls with Turner syndrome also requires estrogen and related hormone therapy in order for them to begin puberty and achieve adult sexual development. Estrogen replacement therapy usually continues throughout life until a woman reaches the average age of menopause.

Aug. 27, 2011

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