Gastric emptying in patients with restricting and binge/purging subtypes of anorexia nervosa

Am J Gastroenterol. 2004 Aug;99(8):1448-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2004.30246.x.


Objectives: Gastrointestinal symptoms are common in anorexia and in bulimia nervosa, but their relationship with gastric dysmotility and their possible improvement with refeeding are still debated.

Methods: Twenty-three anorexic patients (12 with the binge/purging and 11 with the restricting subtypes) were studied using an ultrasonographic gastric-emptying test, psychopathological questionnaires, and bowel symptom questionnaires, before and after 4 and 22 wk rehabilitation.

Results: Gastric symptom scores were markedly higher in patients than in controls and improved significantly with treatment. On entry, compared to controls, gastric emptying was significantly delayed in restricters and purgers (357 +/- 25.3 and 360 +/- 13.0 min, respectively, mean +/- SEM; controls 207 +/- 9.1). After 4 and 22 wk of treatment, it improved in restricters (315 +/- 20.1 and 296 +/- 17.2 min, respectively), but not in purgers (337 +/- 14.3 and 335 +/- 15.9 min). No relationship was found between entry values of symptoms of gastric emptying and of psychopathological tests or between their variations over time.

Conclusions: Gastric emptying derangement and dyspeptic symptoms are present in both subtypes of anorexia nervosa patients. Long-term rehabilitation improves gastrointestinal symptoms, gastric emptying, and psychopathological distress in an independent manner, whereas short-term refeeding does not.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy
  • Bulimia / physiopathology*
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Bulimia / therapy
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Psychometrics
  • Satiation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires