What the emergency department needs to know when caring for your patients with eating disorders

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


Objective: In this article, we will examine the most common emergency department presentations of eating disorder patients, review the pathophysiologic changes that lead to such presentations, and discuss the appropriate management of each patient.

Method: Literature review of current practices.

Results: This article serves as a guide for ED physicians caring for patients with eating disorders. It can also serve to improve communication between mental health specialists and emergency room physicians when transferring care of a patient to the ED.

Discussion: Patients with anorexia and bulimia nervosa present to ED with a multitude of vague complaints. It is crucial for ED physicians to recognize that such complaints stem from an underlying eating disorder to understand the pathophysiology behind such complaints. This in turn will lead to appropriate management of patient symptoms, which can often be complex for the provider and stressful for the patient.

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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