Extremely severe anorexia nervosa: Hospital course of 354 adult patients in a clinical nutrition-eating disorders-unit

Clin Nutr. 2021 Apr;40(4):1954-1965. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2020.09.011. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Background and aims: The clinical nutrition-eating disorders-unit in Raymond Poincaré Hospital is a reference center for the management of severe malnutrition and its complications in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN). The purpose of this study is to specify socio-demographic, anamnesic and clinical characteristics of AN patients hospitalized for extreme malnutrition, to identify types and prevalence of medical complications presented during their hospitalization for refeeding and the evolution of patients nutritional status.

Methods: Demographic, clinical and paraclinical data of 354 severely malnourished AN patients were collected, during their first hospitalization in the unit, between November 1997 and January 2014, through medical records. The prevalence of medical complications was compared between the 2 AN subtypes (restricting and binging-purging).

Results: 339 patients were female and mean age was 28.7 ± 10.7 years old. Duration of AN was 9.5 ± 9 years, 173 (48.9%) patients had a restricting AN subtype. BMI at admission was 12.2 ± 1.6 kg/m2, 280 (79.3%) patients had already been hospitalized for AN in other hospitals before. Psychiatric comorbidities were present in 168 (47.5%) patients. Associated somatic comorbidities concerned 70 (19.8%) patients. Outcomes during hospitalization were marked by 4.1 ± 3.9 kg weight gain on 36.9 ± 30.5 days. Enteral nutrition was provided in 304 (85.9%) patients. Main medical complications during hospitalization were: anemia (79%), neutropenia (53.9%), hypertransaminasemia (53.7%), osteoporosis (46.3%), hypokalemia (39.5%), hypophosphatemia (26%), hypoglycemia (13.8%), infectious complications (24.3%), cardiac dysfunction (7.1%), and proven gelatinous bone marrow transformation (6.5%). Hypokalemia was more frequent in binging-purging subtype. Lympho-neutropenia and hypertransaminasemia were more frequent in restricting subtype. During their hospitalization, 35 (10%) patients were referred to medical intensive care unit and 5 patients died.

Conclusions: AN patients hospitalized for severe malnutrition in a specialized clinical nutrition unit have severe and frequent medical complications. Psychiatric comorbidities are also frequent and could complicate medical care. A specialized and multidisciplinary management of these patients is therefore essential.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; In patient; Medical complications; Refeeding; Severe malnutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy
  • Enteral Nutrition / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • France
  • Heart Diseases / complications*
  • Hematologic Diseases / complications*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infections / complications*
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Metabolic Diseases / complications*
  • Severity of Illness Index