Linear growth and final height characteristics in adolescent females with anorexia nervosa

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45504. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045504. Epub 2012 Sep 18.


Objective: Growth retardation is an established complication of anorexia nervosa (AN). However, findings concerning final height of AN patients are inconsistent. The aim of this study was to assess these phenomena in female adolescent inpatients with AN.

Methods: We retrospectively studied all 211 female adolescent AN patients hospitalized in an inpatient eating disorders department from 1/1/1987 to 31/12/99. Height and weight were assessed at admission and thereafter routinely during hospitalization and follow-up. Final height was measured in 69 patients 2-10 years after discharge. Pre-morbid height data was available in 29 patients.

Results: Patients' height standard deviation scores (SDS) on admission (-0.285±1.0) and discharge (-0.271±1.02) were significantly (p<0.001) lower than expected in normal adolescents. Patients admitted at age ≤13 years, or less than 1 year after menarche, were more severely growth-impaired than patients admitted at an older age, (p = 0.03). Final height SDS, available for 69 patients, was -0.258±1.04, significantly lower than expected in a normal population (p = 0.04), and was more severely compromised in patients who were admitted less than 1 year from their menarche. In a subgroup of 29 patients with complete growth data (pre-morbid, admission, discharge, and final adult height), the pre-morbid height SDS was not significantly different from the expected (-0.11±1.1), whereas heights at the other time points were significantly (p = 0.001) lower (-0.56±1.2, -0.52±1.2, and -0.6±1.2, respectively).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that whereas the premorbid height of female adolescent AN patients is normal, linear growth retardation is a prominent feature of their illness. Weight restoration is associated with catch-up growth, but complete catch-up is often not achieved.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications*
  • Body Height*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Female
  • Growth Charts
  • Growth Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Menarche
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.