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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Non-Clinical Medicine - Pediatrics and Child Health

Healthy Growth in Children with Down Syndrome
Published: Friday, February 17, 2012
Author: Helma B. M. Van Gameren-Oosterom et al.

by Helma B. M. Van Gameren-Oosterom, Paula Van Dommelen, Anne Marie Oudesluys-Murphy, Simone E. Buitendijk, Stef Van Buuren, Jacobus P. Van Wouwe


To provide cross-sectional height and head circumference (HC) references for healthy Dutch children with Down syndrome (DS), while considering the influence of concomitant disorders on their growth, and to compare growth between children with DS and children from the general population.

Study design

Longitudinal growth and medical data were retrospectively collected from medical records in 25 of the 30 regional hospital-based outpatient clinics for children with DS in the Netherlands. Children with Trisomy 21 karyotype of Dutch descent born after 1982 were included. The LMS method was applied to fit growth references.


We enrolled 1,596 children, and collected 10,558 measurements for height and 1,778 for HC. Children with DS without concomitant disorders (otherwise healthy children) and those suffering only from mild congenital heart defects showed similar growth patterns. The established growth charts, based on all measurements of these two groups, demonstrate the three age periods when height differences between children with and without DS increase: during pregnancy, during the first three years of life, and during puberty. This growth pattern results in a mean final height of 163.4 cm in boys and 151.8 cm in girls (-2.9 standard deviation (SD) and -3.0 SD on general Dutch charts, respectively). Mean HC (0 to 15 months) was 2 SD less than in the general Dutch population. The charts are available at


Height and HC references showed that growth retardation in otherwise healthy children with DS meanly occurs in three critical periods of growth, resulting in shorter final stature and smaller HC than the general Dutch population shows. With these references, health care professionals can optimize their preventive care: monitoring growth of individual children with DS optimal, so that growth retarding comorbidities can be identified early, and focusing on the critical age periods to establish ways to optimize growth.