Anorexia Nervosa

Medical Outcomes for Adults Hospitalized with Severe Anorexia Nervosa: An Analysis by Age Group

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


Objective: Relatively little has been written about the outcomes of medical stabilization, analyzed specifically across the age spectrum, in adults with severe anorexia nervosa (AN).

Method: We retrospectively evaluated clinical parameters relevant to acuity of illness and outcomes of early refeeding in 142 adults with severe AN, admitted for definitive inpatient medical stabilization from October 1, 2008 to December 31, 2012. Patients were categorized into three age groups: 17 to 29, 30 to 40, and 41+ years.

Results: The study included 142 patients with median age of 28 years old (range 17-65 years). Fifty-four percent (n = 78) were under 30 years old, 23% (n = 32) between 30 and 40 years old, and 23% (n = 32) were over 40 years old. Average admission BMI did not differ among age groups, ranging from 12.7 to 13.2 kg/m(2). Of the admission parameters, only low serum albumin levels (more prevalent in older patients), high international normalized ratio (INR) levels (more prevalent in younger patients), and neutropenia (more prevalent in the <30 age group) varied with age. During hospitalization, rates of bradycardia, hypoglycemia, liver dysfunction, very low %IBW, refeeding hypophosphatemia, refeeding edema, length of stay, and discharge BMI did not differ with age. Age group was associated with rate of weekly weight gain only in patients with AN-binge purge subtype.

Discussion: Results demonstrate medical abnormalities and response to medical stabilization in severely ill AN patients during hospitalization were mostly similar across the age span. This information should allay fears that the effect of age will make medical stabilization more difficult.

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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