Diagnosis for growth disorders

If you are worried about your child’s growth you might be wondering when or if your child will be referred to a specialist for further tests, and what these might be.

When will my doctor refer my child to a specialist? 

Your doctor will first look at your child’s current height and also their birth height and weight, as well as the family history, to assess the situation. (Find out more about preparing for a visit to your doctor). If there are no other symptoms of growth disorder then your doctor may just monitor your child over several months to see how they are progressing.

If after this time your doctor feels that there may be a problem with your child’s growth, they will refer them to a specialist for more tests. 

Remember doctors are busy people and no one knows your child as well as you do, so sometimes it is worth being persistent if you think there might be a problem that hasn’t been fully diagnosed yet.  

Keep taking regular height measurements of your child and keep talking to your doctor;  if you are still worried ask them to refer you to a specialist – it is what they are there for.

To help you, below is a very general explanation of guidelines for referral to a specialist. Please note that this is a guide and your experience may vary from this.

Age of child Guideline for referral to specialist
0 - 3 yrs
  • Children with severe short stature (generally below the 0.1% line) at birth.
  • Children with very short height (below the 2% line on the growth chart) should be monitored. The height measurement should be repeated at between 6 months and 1 year. If the repeat measurements are still less than the 2% line on the growth chart, and birth weight was 2,500 grams or more, the child should be referred. 
  • Children with physical characteristics or symptoms that might indicate a primary or secondary growth disorder.
3 - 10 yrs
  • Children with a very short height (below the 2% line on the growth chart).
  • Children with a short height below the 3% line on the growth chart who also have one of the following:
    • The child is small for gestational age (SGA) and their height was below the 3% line on the growth chart for their gestational age
    • The current height is below the 3% line on the growth chart
    • The second measurement (between 6 months to 1 year after the first) falls to the next line down on the growth chart.
  • Children with physical characteristics or symptoms that might indicate a primary or secondary growth disorder.
10 yrs +

From age 10 there is a possibility of puberty which can cause a lot of changes in growth patterns. At this stage if the growth curve begins to ‘bend’ a little there is no reason to panic. During this age there are a lot of differences between children’s heights. 

At present there is no guideline for this age group.

Puberty If your child has very early or very late puberty your child may be referred.

Each case is different and your child’s doctor will decide based on your child’s individual case when or if referral is needed. Always speak to your doctor if you are unsure about what is going on. 

Visit the links below to find out more about: 

Types of growth disorders: Find out about symptoms and types of growth disorders;

What we can do about it: Find out when to see your doctor;

How to treat growth disorders: Find out about medicines and treatments available to help children with growth disorders;

How we can live with it: Get information and help with supporting your child live with a growth disorder on a day-to-day basis, stories from real life patients and how to deal with needle fear.

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