[Severe complications and mortality in mental eating disorders in adolescence. On 99 hospitalized patients]

Arch Fr Pediatr. 1993 Nov;50(9):755-62.
[Article in French]


Background: Subclinical medical complications frequently occur during the follow-up of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. This paper describes some of these.

Population and methods: Charts of 99 adolescent patients (89 girls and 10 boys), aged 11.8 to 22 years (mean: 16.6 +/- 2.1 years), admitted for anorexia nervosa (N:92) or bulimia (N:7), were analyzed retrospectively. All severe or potentially severe, clinical and non-clinical, findings at admission were included in the study.

Results: Anorexic patients had a mean weight loss of 31.5% (22 of them were also vomiters or laxative abusers). Initial nasogastric tube feeding was necessary in 19 patients and parenteral nutrition in 2. Bradycardia and hypotension were common. A variety of ECG abnormalities were seen in 86% of the patients. Mitral valve prolapse was present in 14 of the 43 patients examined by echocardiography. Electrolyte imbalance was also common: hyponatremia in 7 patients, hypokalemia in 21, hypochloremia in 10 of the 12 vomiters, hypophosphatemia in 7, hyperazotemia in 24 and hypoglycemia in 22. Bone marrow hypoplasia was frequent, with leukopenia in 29 patients, anemia in 21 and thrombocytopenia in 5. No patient developed infectious complications. One patient presented with an acute gastric dilatation and another with spontaneous pneumomediastinum. One patient, 14 year-old, died 3 years after the onset of anorexia from acute water intoxication.

Conclusion: These well-known complications are more common in anorexic than in bulimic patients. Their prevention requires rigorous and continuous medical supervision.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Psychiatry*
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / mortality
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Bulimia / mortality
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Child
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / mortality
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Hematologic Diseases / etiology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Nutrition Disorders / mortality
  • Nutrition Disorders / psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / etiology