To analyze the utility of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) radioimmunoassay for diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency (GHD) we measured IGFBP-3 in sera from normal children, short children and patients with GHD. The sensitivity (true positive ratio) of IGFBP-3 for complete GHD (cGHD) was 93%, while the specificity (true negative ratio) for normal short children (NS) was 88%. In contrast, the sensitivity of IGFBP-3 for partial GHD (pGHD) was only 43%. The poor discrimination between patients with pGHD and NS may be the result of their relatively similar GH level, as compared to cGHD, or due to the limitations of GH stimulation tests. The specificity of IGFBP-3 for NS was excellent in children of all ages: less than 10 years old (87%) and older than 10 (88%). However, sensitivity for GHD was good for children less than 10 years old (84%) but poor for children older than 10 (64%). IGFBP-3 may be less sensitive for diagnosing GHD in older children because IGFBP-3 levels may also increase during puberty due to mechanisms independent of the GH-IGF-I axis.
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