Short stature

  • Definition
    • A child who has short stature is much shorter than children who are the same age and sex.

      Your health care provider will go over your child's growth chart with you. A child with short stature's height is:

      • 2 standard deviations (SD) or more below the average height for children of the same sex and age
      • Below the 2.3rd percentile on the growth chart: Out of 1,000 boys (or girls) who were born on the same day, 977 of the children are taller than your son or daughter
  • Alternative Names
    • Idiopathic short stature; Non-growth hormone deficient short stature

  • Considerations
    • Your child's provider checks how your child is growing at regular checkups. The provider will:

      • Record your child's height and weight on a growth chart.
      • Monitor your child's growth rate over time. Ask the provider what percentile your child is for height and weight.
      • Compare your child's height and weight to other children of the same age and sex.
      • Talk with you if you are worried that your child is shorter than other children. If your child has short stature, this does not necessarily mean that something is wrong.
  • Causes
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your provider if your child appears to be much shorter than most children his age, or if he seems to have stopped growing.

  • What to Expect at Your Office Visit
    • The provider will perform a physical exam. The provider will measure your child's height, weight, and arm and leg lengths.

      To figure out possible causes of your child's short stature, the provider will ask about your child's history.

      If your child's short stature may be due to a medical condition, your child will need lab tests and x-rays.

      Bone age x-rays are most often taken of the left wrist or hand. The provider looks at the x-ray to see if the size and shape of your child's bones have grown normally. If the bones have not grown as expected for your child's age, the provider will talk more about why your child may not be growing normally.

      Your child may have other tests if another medical condition may be involved, including:

      • Complete blood count
      • Growth hormone stimulation
      • Thyroid function tests
      • Insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) level
      • Blood tests to look for liver, kidney, thyroid, immune system, and other medical problems

      Your provider keeps records of your child's height and weight. Keep your own records, too. Bring these records to your provider's attention if the growth seems slow or your child seems small.


      Your child's short stature may affect her self-esteem.

      • Check in with your child about relationships with friends and classmates. Kids tease each other about many things, including height.
      • Give your child emotional support.
      • Help family, friends, and teachers emphasize your child's skills and strengths.


      If your child has no or low levels of growth hormone, your provider may talk about treatment with growth hormone injections.

      Most children have normal growth hormone levels and will not need growth hormone injections. If your child is a boy with short stature and delayed puberty, your provider may talk about using testosterone injections to jump start growth. But this is not likely to increase adult height.

  • References
    • Cohen LE. Idiopathic short stature: a clinical review. JAMA. 2014;311(17);1787-1796. PMID: 24794372

      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(11):4210-4217. PMID: 18782877

      Cooke DW, Divall SA, Radovick S. Normal and aberrant growth in children. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 24.

      Keane VA. Assessment of growth. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW III, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 15.

      Sisley S, Trujillo MV, Khoury J, Backeljauw P. Low incidence of pathology detection and high cost of screening in the evaluation of symptomatic short children. J Pediatr. 2013;163:1045. PMID: 23706358

      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;162(4):653-660. PMID: 2011040