Anorexia Nervosa

Dysphagia in Severe Anorexia Nervosa: A Case Report

International Journal of Eating Disorders
By Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS


Objective: The purpose of this case report is to increase awareness among clinicians that oropharyngeal dysphagia occurs in patients with severe anorexia nervosa, placing them at risk for aspiration and impeding nutritional rehabilitation.

Method: We describe a patient with severe anorexia nervosa who manifested symptoms of dysphagia, with resultant aspiration pneumonia, at the time of her admission for medical stabilization.

Results: The speech pathology team administered dysphagia therapy, using neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) in conjunction with swallowing therapy. Following the course of dysphagia treatment intervention, the patient was able to tolerate an oral diet with improved swallowing function and no ongoing aspiration.

Discussion: Patients with severe anorexia nervosa should be screened for possible dysphagia. NMES in the treatment of dysphagia in patients with anorexia nervosa may reduce the need for enteral feeds and prolonged hospitalization.

Written by

Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS

Dr. Philip S. Mehler began his career at Denver Health more than 35 years ago and was formerly its Chief of Internal Medicine and then Denver Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) until he was promoted…

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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