Turner syndrome medical therapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Akash Daswaney, M.B.B.S[2]


Medical therapies include growth hormone, estrogen replacement therapy, oxandrolone (if growth hormone achieves suboptimal height), vitamin D supplementation, oral hypoglycemic agents and anti-hypertensives.

Medical Therapy

  • The treatment of Turner syndrome requires a step wise multidisciplinary approach. Treatment of short stature (with growth hormone), pubertal delay (with estrogen replacement therapy and subsequent hormone replacement therapy) must work in conjunction with treatment of complications (coordinating between various departments to treat dermatological, otorhinolaryngological, cardiovascular, endocrinological, ophthalmological and embryological complications) and cognitive skill coping strategies.
  • Decisions where treatment is concerned should be guided on a clinician’s correlation between the genotype and phenotype of the patient.
  • Based on whether a diminished final height or pubertal development is the goal, growth hormone and estrogen replacement therapy doses need to be modified. It is not known whether either affects the efficacy of the other.

Growth Hormone

  • Growth Hormone addresses the most common concern and phenotype seen in Turner syndrome patients ; short stature. [1]
  • Turner syndrome patients do not have growth hormone deficiency and neither does growth hormone cause an increase in bone mass or bone age. It however does lead to an increased final height.
  • If not treated with growth hormone, it has been estimated that the final adult height would be 20 cm below the average adult female height.
  • Initiation:
    • Growth hormone may be initiated as early as 4-6 years of age.
    • Some studies suggest that growth hormone should be initiated when the patient’s height falls below the fifth percentile. This would have taken place by 2 years of age.
  • Preferred regimen
    • Starting at 45–50 µg/kg/day and increasing (if the initial response is suboptimal) to a dose of 68 µg/kg/day, subcutaneously seven days a week, at night (preferably)
    • For the first year, height should me monitored ever 3-4 months.
    • Following which it should be monitored every 4-6 months.
  • Escalating doses are often required as the effects of growth hormone start to decrease after the first couple of years. However, an increased sensitivity is seen in the first 1-2 years of treatment.
  • Decision to stop growth hormone therapy is based on completion of linear growth (bone age of 13.5-14 years and height velocity <2cm/year)
  • Efficacy depends on:
    1. Mid-parental height
    2. Age at which therapy is initiated
    3. Duration of GH therapy
    4. Dose of GH therapy
    5. Baseline height prior to initiation
    • In a study conducted in India, where growth hormone was administered to 16 Turner syndrome patients, a distinct benefit was gleaned from the patients’ height SD score and body mass index.
    • Long term treatment has shown to have the greatest impact on posterior facial height and height of the posterior mandibular ramus.
    • Another study showed that patients receiving growth hormone had a final height of -0.3 SD of the normal population, compared to -2.2 SD in individuals who did not.
  • Complications: [1]
    1. Increased risk of otitis media
    2. Increased risk of joint disorders
    3. Increased risk of colon cancer
    4. Increased risk of lymphatic cancer
    5. Decreased insulin sensitivity causing an increase in adipose tissue and may further increase the tendency for patients to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus
    6. May expose underlying scoliosis
    7. Enlarged hands and feet
    8. Intracranial hypertension
    9. Slipped capital femoral epiphyses
    10. Pancreatitis
  • To prevent prolong exposure to insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1), it is recommended to decrease the dosage of growth hormone if serum IGF-1 is 3 standard deviations for the person’s age.
    • IGF-1 levels should be constantly monitored and be kept below 2 standard deviations for a person’s age. [2]

Estrogen replacement therapy

  • Transdermal estradiol is the preferred form of estrogen due to it’s ability to avoid first pass metabolism and therefore, it has an increased bioavailability. [1]
  • Initiation:
    • Therapy started at 11-12 years of age (if no breast development takes place if elevated gonadotrophins are detected or anti-mullerian hormone is low).
    • Patches of a specific estradiol formulation are usually available and are sometimes cut in half according to the administration dose.
    • Some studies have tried starting therapy with oral estrogen and then transitioning to patches.
    • The rationale behind initiation of estrogen replacement therapy should be the timing of puberty induction such that it mimics normal pubertal development and at the same time allows for the patient to avoid social problems in school due to physical and psychological development delays. [3]
  • Preferred regimen:
    • Recommended starting dose for induction of puberty is 3-7 µg/day. [4]
    • This is gradually increased at 6 month intervals and by 2-3 years of therapy, adult doses of 100 µg/day are administered.
  • Progestin supplementation is required by 2 years of age to decrease the risk of endometrial cancer (due to the unopposed effect of estrogen) and as soon as withdrawal bleeding is noted.
  • Benefits noted: [5]
    1. Improvements in cognition, motor speed, nonverbal processing time and memory
    2. Improvements in growth velocity, prevents premature closure of the epiphysis
    3. Improvements in bone health and trabecular bone] volume.
    4. Cardiovascular protection
    5. Induction of puberty and uterine development
    6. Increased bone mineral density
    7. Decreases psychosocial stress related to pubertal delay


  • Oxandrolone is added as an adjunct to growth hormone therapy to help achieve an adequate final height.
  • This was indicated in a study which used oxandrolone in doses of 0.05mg/kg/day and found that patients taking oxandrolone had their final adult height increased by 4.5 cm.
  • Initiation:
    • Turner syndrome patients greater than 10 years of age, who are receiving a growth hormone treatment regimen and with a poorly projected final adult height. [3]
  • Preferred regimen– 0.03-0.05mg/kg/day. [1]
  • Benefits:
    1. One study showed that oxandrolone helped improve working memory performance. [4]
  • Complications:
    1. Signs of virilization such as hirsutism, acne, enlarged clitoris, deeper voice.
    2. Delayed breast development
    3. Decrease in HDL

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Treatment for type 2 Diabetes mellitus and Obesity

Nandrolone Phenylpropionate

Vitamin D supplementation

  • Low vitamin D levels are noted in Turner syndrome patients and therefore prophylactic vitamin D supplementation coupled with an active lifestyle which includes regular sports and weight bearing exercises should be employed.

Treatment for Hypertension

  • Hypertension must be treated aggressively using beta blockers as first line followed by angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) due to the risk of aortic dilation. "Turner Syndrome - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf".


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Shankar RK, Backeljauw PF (2018). "Current best practice in the management of Turner syndrome". Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 9 (1): 33–40. doi:10.1177/2042018817746291. PMC 5761955. PMID 29344338.
  2. Frías JL, Davenport ML, Committee on Genetics and Section on Endocrinology (2003). "Health supervision for children with Turner syndrome". Pediatrics. 111 (3): 692–702. doi:10.1542/peds.111.3.692. PMID 12612263.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kesler SR (2007). "Turner syndrome". Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 16 (3): 709–22. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2007.02.004. PMC 2023872. PMID 17562588.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Collett-Solberg PF, Gallicchio CT, Coelho SC, Siqueira RA, Alves ST, Guimarães MM (2011). "Endocrine diseases, perspectives and care in Turner syndrome". Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 55 (8): 550–8. doi:10.1590/s0004-27302011000800008. PMID 22218436.
  5. Gravholt CH (2005). "Clinical practice in Turner syndrome". Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 1 (1): 41–52. doi:10.1038/ncpendmet0024. PMID 16929365.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sybert VP, McCauley E (2004). "Turner's syndrome". N Engl J Med. 351 (12): 1227–38. doi:10.1056/NEJMra030360. PMID 15371580.
  7. Cui X, Cui Y, Shi L, Luan J, Zhou X, Han J (2018). "A basic understanding of Turner syndrome: Incidence, complications, diagnosis, and treatment". Intractable Rare Dis Res. 7 (4): 223–228. doi:10.5582/irdr.2017.01056. PMC 6290843. PMID 30560013.

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