Vitamin A-derived retinoids have been reported to cause skeletal abnormalities ranging from hypercalcemia to premature epiphyseal closure. Isotretinoin is a retinoid used as standard therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma and has been reported to cause premature epiphyseal growth plate arrest.
We identified patients from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) database with high-risk neuroblastoma diagnosed from 1991 to 2018 who experienced premature epiphyseal growth plate arrest and compared their characteristics to other patients with high-risk neuroblastoma. We then performed a literature review of this complication. Data collection included diagnosis age of neuroblastoma, presentation age, agent of exposure, dose, exposure range, and skeletal deformity.
Among 216 patients, high-risk neuroblastoma was diagnosed before age of five years (n = 165), between ages of 5 and 10 years (n = 41), and after 10 years of age (n = 13). Three out of 216 patients developed premature epiphyseal growth arrest after isotretinoin exposure (overall incidence = 1.38%). The incidence of bony abnormalities was significantly higher in patients diagnosed in 5- to 10-year age group than in other two groups (P = 0.014). Literature review identified eight additional patients with neuroblastoma who presented with retinoid associated skeletal abnormalities. The median range of isotretinoin exposure for these 11 patients was between 6.5 and 7.625 years (range, 2-14) with no cases of isotretinoin therapy completion before age 5 years.
Bone toxicity associated with isotretinoin exposure is a concern. Growth plate arrest is a serious adverse effect that is attributable to isotretinoin therapy. Our findings suggest the prepubescent growth plate may be most at risk, and we recommend special attention to this population.

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