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

Int J Eat Disord. 2012 Dec;45(8):977-81. doi: 10.1002/eat.22035. Epub 2012 Jun 18.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy
  • Bulimia Nervosa / complications
  • Bulimia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Bulimia Nervosa / physiopathology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Medical History Taking
  • Medical Records, Problem-Oriented
  • Physical Examination
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult