Growth hormone therapy in patients with cirrhosis: a pilot study of efficacy and safety.

BACKGROUND & AIMS: The protein catabolic state of cirrhosis is associated with severe growth hormone (GH) resistance, with low levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and its major binding protein (IGFBP)-3. The aim of this study was to conduct a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of GH therapy in 20 cirrhotic patients to assess the reversibility of GH resistance and subsequent impact on protein economy and safety.

METHODS: Patients were treated with GH (0.25 IU/kg body wt) or placebo for 7 days. Serum levels of GH, IGF-I, IGFBP-3, and insulin were measured by radioimmunoassay and 24-hour urinary nitrogen by the Kjeldahl technique.

RESULTS: IGF-I levels increased only in the GH-treated group (mean, 69.2 +/- SE 7.0 to 170.6 +/- 48.8 ng/mL; P < 0.05) together with IGFBP-3 (1.65 +/- 0.3 to 2.94 +/- 0.6 mg/L; P < 0.005). Cumulative nitrogen balance similarly improved only in the GH group (2.87-24.16 g; P < 0.05). No significant side effects of GH were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: GH therapy can overcome the GH resistance of cirrhosis. The resulting improvement in nitrogen economy and possible influences on clinical outcomes will need to be confirmed in controlled studies of longer duration.