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Primary Care Docs Often Overlook Short Stature in Girls

FRIDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Short girls are less likely than short boys to be referred for tests that could reveal underlying medical reasons for their stature, researchers have found.

This means that girls with medical conditions causing their short stature may go undiagnosed or be diagnosed at a later age, which could prevent them from receiving timely treatment, according to the report from investigators at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The research team analyzed the medical records of 33,476 children, aged 6 months to 20 years, who visited four primary care centers in Philadelphia. Of those children, 3,007 had growth faltering, defined as being in the lowest 5 percent of height for age and gender.

Most of the children with growth faltering were managed by primary care physicians. Only 8 percent were managed by subspecialists, such as endocrinologists or gastroenterologists.

Of the 3,007 children with growth faltering, boys were more likely than girls to be tested for growth hormone system problems, according to the report published online and in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

In addition, black children were less likely than white children to see a subspecialist and this disparity was greater for endocrinologists than for gastroenterologists, the study authors noted. Gender or type of health insurance did not influence the likelihood of seeing a subspecialist.

"While social pressures for tallness may be greater in boys than girls, primary care providers who overlook growth faltering may be missing out on an underlying condition that has additional health consequences. Height is the clue, not the endgame," study primary investigator and pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Adda Grimberg said in a hospital news release.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children's growth.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, news release, March 21, 2011

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