Background: Growth retardation in childhood was only recently recognized as a prominent feature of Gaucher disease type 1, but there are few data on both the pubertal development and the final outcome of growth and sexual maturation.
Objective: To investigate the natural pattern of growth and puberty in patients with Gaucher disease type 1 and the effect of splenectomy and enzyme replacement therapy.
Methods: We retrospectively analyzed growth and puberty in 57 patients with Gaucher disease type 1; 52 were followed since childhood and/or prepuberty and 42 have reached sexual maturity and final height. In the analysis we considered severity of disease, time of splenectomy, and start of enzyme replacement therapy.
Results: Deceleration of growth at age 3–5 years was observed in 30 of 57 patients followed since early childhood while untreated: height-SDS decreased from -0.34±0.42 at age 0–3 years to -1.93±0.95 (P<0.01) at age 7–10 years and was more pronounced with severe disease. A high prevalence (59.6%) of delayed puberty, which was more frequent with severe disease, was observed in 47 patients followed before and throughout puberty. No primary endocrine pathology was found. All patients, untreated as well as treated, with growth and pubertal delay had a spontaneous catch-up, achieved full sexual maturation, and most (83.3%) reached a final height within the range of parental height–standard deviation score. Splenectomy (partial and/or total) performed in 20 patients while still growing had a beneficial effect on growth, which was temporary in some and did not affect puberty. ERT improved growth in 11 patients who started therapy before puberty, as evidenced by a progressive increase in the height-SDS, and seemed to normalize the onset of puberty.
Conclusions: Growth retardation in childhood and delay of puberty are characteristic of Gaucher disease type 1 and are more frequent with severe disease. There is a spontaneous catch-up later in life and most patients reach a final height within their genetic growth potential. Enzyme replacement therapy apparently normalizes growth and possibly also the onset of puberty.
ERT = enzyme replacement therapy
SDS = standard deviation score