Anorexia Nervosa

Hematological abnormalities in severe anorexia nervosa

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
By Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS


Background/objectives: Anemia, leukopenia and, although less frequently, thrombocytopenia are possible hematological complications of anorexia nervosa considered strictly secondary to chronic malnutrition. This is a retrospective study on the prevalence of these disorders in a large cohort of 318 female patients with AN (20.4±5.6 years, body mass index (BMI) 15.9±1.6 kg/m2), recruited in the Outpatient Unit for Malnutrition secondary to Eating Disorders at the Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, Federico II University Hospital, since February 1991 to December 2012.

Subjects/methods: Patients were studied on an outpatient basis after obtaining medical history, clinical examination, routine hematobiochemical and endocrine tests, electrocardiography, psychiatric interview and bioelectrical impedance analysis and, in particular, phase angle determination. All patients with other comorbidities, in particular with mean corpuscular volume <80 fl, were excluded for suspected genetic alteration in the synthesis of hemoglobin.

Results: Hematologic data showed that 16.7% of patients had anemia, 7.9% neutropenia and 8.9% thrombocytopenia. These abnormalities were strictly related to the duration of illness (P=0.028), and to protein energy malnutrition, in particular, BMI and phase angle (P<0.001).

Conclusions: Our study offers description of the incidence of hematologic defects in a selected and large sample of AN female patients, suggesting that its incidence is related to the degree and duration of protein energy malnutrition.

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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