Anorexia Nervosa

Severe Gastric Dilatation Due to Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome in Anorexia Nervosa

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


Forty-seven year old female, with a history of anorexia nervosa, was admitted to a medical stabilization unit (ACUTE) complaining of abdominal pain exacerbated by oral intake, associated with nausea, and relieved by emesis. Admission body mass index was 10.6. Labs were notable for hepatitis and hypoglycemia. On her progressive oral refeeding plan, she suddenly developed severe abdominal pain. Computed tomography (CT) revealed gastric dilatation and superior mesenteric artery (SMA) syndrome. SMA syndrome is a rare complication of severe malnutrition resulting from compression of the duodenum between the aorta and the SMA. It is diagnosed by an upper gastrointestinal series or an abdominal CT. Gastric dilatation, in turn, is a rare complication of SMA syndrome to be included in the differential diagnoses of abdominal pain in severely malnourished patients as it is potentially life-threatening. The patient was switched to an oral liquid diet, began weight restoring, and had resolution of symptoms.

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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