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ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders is now ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition

ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition, the nation’s only designated Center of Excellence for the medical treatment of extreme eating disorders and severe malnutrition, today announced its new name. This important change reflects the addition of an ancillary service line, which utilizes ACUTE’s vast expertise in medically supervised refeeding to treat severely low weight patients whose malnutrition stems from a cause other than an extreme eating disorder.

While ACUTE’s primary focus remains, as it has for many years since its inception, the medical treatment for the most severe forms of eating disorders, the addition of ACUTE’s new service line, for non-eating disorder malnutrition, has come to fruition following a steady stream of inquiries from severely low weight and medically complex patients, whose malnutrition derives from advanced illness or infection. Patients with liver failure, cancer, nontuberculosis myobacteria infections (NTM, aka MAI), HIV and other conditions causing significant wasting, require weight restoration with concurrent expert treatment of their other medical diagnoses in order to meet minimum BMI requirements to begin—or continue—lifesaving treatment or qualify for a necessary surgery. ACUTE’s medical telemetry unit, on the Denver Health Medical Center campus in Denver, Colorado, has acclaimed expertise in refeeding and extensive capabilities to address all medical issues concurrently.

For example, patients with nontuberculosis myobacteria infections (NTM, aka MAI), a rare lung disease, experience fatigue and lack of appetite alongside other life-interrupting medical complications, which can cause profound and unintended weight loss and muscle wasting. A subset of NTM/MAI patients find themselves too low weighted and malnourished to qualify for a potentially life-saving lung resection surgery, the only treatment for advanced cases that do not respond singularly to antibiotic. These patients are so medically compromised, they cannot simply “eat more” or “gain weight” due to their advanced catabolic disease state; and some of these malnourished patients are at risk for the deadly refeeding syndrome should they ingest too many calories too quickly in an effort to gain weight. ACUTE has treated several patients with NTM/MAI, simultaneously addressing weight restoration, nutritional rehabilitation, emotional concerns and strength and mobility issues on the unit, while engaging Denver Health’s expert pulmonologists to treat the active lung infection. In fact, prior to COVID-19, ACUTE collaborated closely with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pulmonology division and National Jewish Health to better understand malnutrition related to MAI and safely weight restore patients requiring surgery.

“The science of safe, effective refeeding for the severely low weight patient has many parallels to anorexia nervosa and severe malnutrition from other causes including disease or infection,” explains Dr. Philip S. Mehler, founder and chief executive officer of ACUTE, and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “What’s different in the treatment approach is the psychiatric and behavioral care involved. While patients with extreme forms of eating disorders often present with intense psychiatric symptoms and comorbidities, patients with advanced and/or chronic illness have a high prevalence of depression and anxiety related to living with major illness. Our medical and behavioral teams collaborate to meet any patient treatment need, addressing most medical diagnoses and psychiatric issues concurrently. There is no other unit in the U.S. capable of this tandem approach and long-standing excellent patient outcomes.”

“ACUTE has always maintained a commitment to clinical excellence and rigorous research to keep us on the leading edge of innovation,” adds Dr. Dennis Gibson, MD, CEDS, Medical Director of ACUTE. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges with regard to accessing life-saving care for so many patients—including those with severe eating disorders and those with malnutrition from other causes—and has reminded providers that we can skillfully pivot within our specialty expertise to meet these emerging treatment needs.”

Learn more about medically supervised refeeding for severely malnourished patients here: Refeeding for Severe Malnutrition | ACUTE

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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