Effects of inhaled corticosteroids on growth

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Abstract

Inhaled corticosteroids are an established treatment for asthma in childhood. The risk of adverse events associated with conventional doses of inhaled corticosteroids is low, but in children with asthma concern remains about the potential effects of these compounds on growth. Short-term growth in children can be measured with knemometry. This technique measures changes in lower leg length that can be detected over periods as short as days or even intradaily. However, nonlinearity of lower leg growth and the complexity of statural growth confound any attempts to derive a predicted height from short-term measurements of the lower leg. Knemometry is better at detecting growth suppression than growth promotion. With knemometry, inhaled fluticasone propionate 200 μg/day had no effect on lower leg growth, but beclomethasone propionate 400 μg/day significantly reduced lower leg growth. Inhaled budesonide also caused a dose-dependent reduction in lower leg growth, but this only reached significance at the 800 μg/day dose. Long-term growth in children is measured with stadiometry. Growth velocity can only be determined from measurements of height taken over a period of at least 1 year. There is no evidence that inhaled corticosteroids at conventional doses have an adverse effect on the final height of children, but it is important to be aware of the growth-impairing effect of poorly controlled asthma. All children with asthma receiving inhaled corticosteroids should have their growth monitored, and any deviation from the expected pattern should be investigated. The effect of early intervention with inhaled steroids in childhood warrants further investigation.

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