Gastric dilatation in patients with restrictive eating disorders

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


Objectives: To better understand gastric dimensions in patients diagnosed with restrictive eating disorders (EDs).

Method: In this retrospective study, 56 patients, with restrictive EDs, and 60 gender/age/race-matched patients from an outpatient clinic, were studied. Difference in stomach size, between cohorts, was ascertained, and regression analyses were used to examine associations with stomach size in the ED cohort.

Results: Patients with EDs were found to have significantly enlarged gastric dimensions when compared to the control group (M:14.8 cm [SD: 3.2] vs. 11.4 cm [SD: 2.9], p < .0001). Among the ED cohort, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), on the day of imaging, positively correlated with gastric dimensions (r = .43, p = .0009), while hypoalbuminemia negatively correlated with gastric dimensions (r = -.37, p = .005). BUN and albumin nadir were also significantly associated with stomach size (r2 = .26, F[2,53] = 9.46, p = .0003). There was no significant correlation between gastric dimensions and ED diagnosis, percent ideal body weight, gender, duration of illness, engagement in vomiting behaviors, diagnosis of superior mesenteric artery syndrome, or use of promotility agents.

Discussion: Findings in this study suggest that malnutrition, secondary to EDs, may be associated with an enlarged stomach. The relationship between the gastric dimensions and reported GI symptoms in this population remain to be determined.

Public significance: There are many physiologic changes to the gastrointestinal system that develop with malnutrition but the contribution of these physiologic changes toward the reported GI symptoms and refeeding difficulties is unclear. This is the first study to suggest that patients with malnutrition, secondary to EDs, may be associated with an enlarged stomach, and this potential relationship requires further investigation.

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…
Written by

Dennis Gibson, MD, FACP, CEDS

Dennis Gibson, MD, FACP, CEDS serves as the Clinical Operations Director at ACUTE. Dr. Gibson joined ACUTE in 2017 and has since dedicated his clinical efforts to the life-saving medical care of…

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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