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Definition Return to top
Short stature refers to any person who is significantly below the average height for a person of the same age and sex -- specifically, the shortest 3 - 5% of the population.
The term often refers to children or adolescents who are significantly below the average height of their peers.
Considerations Return to top
Short stature is not necessarily a symptom or sign of a health problem. Two relatively short but healthy parents may have an entirely healthy child who is in the shortest 5%.
On the other hand, short stature may be a symptom caused by a medical condition. Since many of these conditions are treatable, the person should be examined by a health care provider. The rate of growth over time is important in determining the cause.
Causes Return to top
This list is not all-inclusive.
Home Care Return to top
No particular care is used to treat short stature unless the short stature is associated with a treatable medical condition. In that case, the appropriate prescribed care should be undertaken.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
If your child appears to be significantly shorter than the majority of children his or her age (or if the rate of growth has decreased or stopped), call your health care provider.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
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 abnormality, 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:
If the short stature appears to run in the family or is due to delayed growth, a bone age x-ray will be done. This test determines if the bone age is appropriate for the patient's age.
Girls with short stature should have a karyotype done to check for certain genetic 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.Update Date: 2/27/2008 Updated by: Rachel A. Lewis, MD, FAAP, Columbia University Pediatric Faculty Practice, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.