Short stature


Short stature refers to any person who is significantly below the average height for a person of the same age and sex.

The term often refers to children or adolescents who are significantly below the average height of their peers.

Alternative Names

Idiopathic short stature; Non-growth hormone deficient short stature


A growth chart is used to show a child's current height and how fast he or she is growing. It can compare your child to other children of the same age and gender (male or female).

If a child's height is more than 2 SD's below the average height of other children the same age, the child is said to have short stature. This means that almost all of the other children that age (more than 95% or 19 out of 20) are taller.

Your health care provider will monitor your child's growth rate over time.

Many parents become worried if their children are shorter than most or all of the children around them. However, short stature is not necessarily a sign of a health problem.


Short stature that has no medical cause (idiopathic short stature) can be due to:

Short stature may be a symptom of a number of medical conditions or problems, including:

This list does not include every possible cause of short stature.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

All children should have their growth and development monitored on a regular basis.

If your child appears to be much shorter than most children his or her age (or if the growth rate has decreased or stopped), call your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will perform a physical examination. The child's height, weight, and arm and leg lengths will be measured. If the short stature appears to be a sign of some medical condition, further tests, including laboratory studies and x-rays, may be needed.

To learn more about possible causes, the health care provider will ask questions, such as:

A bone age x-ray is often done. X-rays are usually made of the left wrist or hand.

Girls with short stature may have a genetic test done to check for certain diseases, such as Turner syndrome.

Other tests may include:

Although your health care provider keeps records of height and weight from routine examinations, you may find it helpful to keep your own records. You may want to bring these records to your health care provider's attention if the growth seems slow or the child seems small.


A child's short stature may often affect self-esteem. Providing emotional support is an important part of treatment. Children may be teased by classmates and friends. Family, friends, and teachers should be sure to emphasize the child's other skills and strengths.

Children of short stature who are found to have a lack of growth hormone in their body will usually be treated with growth hormone injections. See: Growth hormone deficiency

Growth hormone injections are also used to treat children with Turner syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, chronic kidney failure, or idiopathic short stature (ISS).

Children who are of short stature but who have normal growth hormone levels usually do not need growth hormone injections. These children may only receive growth hormone injections when:

Some boys with short stature who also have delayed puberty may receive certain medicines containing the male hormone, testosterone.


Cohen P, Rogol AD, Deal CL, et al. Wit JM: 2007 ISS Consensus Workshop participants. Consensus statement on the diagnosis and treatment of children with idiopathic short stature: a summary of the Growth Hormone Research Society, the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society, and the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Workshop. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93:4210-4217.

van Gool SA, Kamp GA, Odink RJ, et al. High-dose GH treatment limited to the prepubertal period in young children with idiopathic short stature does not increase adult height. Eur J Endocrinol. 2010 Apr;162(4):653-60. Epub 2010 Jan 28.

Collett-Solberg PF, Misra M. Drug and Therapeutics Committee of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society. The role of recombinant human insulin-like growth factor-1 in treating children with short stature. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93:10-18.

Review Date: 8/2/2011
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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