Medical findings in 1,026 consecutive adult inpatient–residential eating disordered patients
Objective: Eating disorders are associated with multiple medical complications. We report contemporary medical data, for newly admitted adult inpatient and residential level of care patients.
Method: Medical records of a transdiagnostic sample of 1,026 patients, with eating disorders, were retrospectively reviewed for the presence of a broad array of medical complications at time of admission. The prevalence of physiologically relevant medical complications was assessed across major eating disorder categories.
Results: Of the patients, 93.6% were female, and they had an average age of 28.1 (SD = 10.1, range 17-69). The average admission body mass index was 16.1 (SD = 2.3). The prevalence of abnormal laboratory values varied by eating disorder subtype. In patients with anorexia nervosa-restricting subtype, 51.4% had low prealbumin, 36.1% were leukopenic, 34.3% had osteoporosis, 30.0% vitamin D deficiency, 16.8% metabolic alkalosis, 16.0% had hyponatremia, 14.2% hypokalemia, and 7.1% hypoglycemia. These patients had normal average QTc intervals. In patients with anorexia nervosa-binge purging subtype, 42.4% had hypokalemia, 33.3% metabolic alkalosis, osteoporosis in 21.1%, and they had longer QTc intervals (433.9 ms, p < .001). Only 6.0% of patients with anorexia nervosa had hypophosphatemia. Patients with bulimia nervosa demonstrated hypokalemia in 26.2%, and metabolic alkalosis in 23.4%; the QTc interval was longer than in AN-R patients (437.9 ms, p < .001), but still in the normal range.
Discussion: Numerous medical complications are associated with severe eating disorders. As the severity increases, the number of complications increase and are related to the presence or absence of purging behaviors.