Clinical effectiveness of treatments for anorexia nervosa in adolescents: randomised controlled trial

Simon G Gowers, Andrew Clark, Chris Roberts, Alison Griffiths, Vanessa Edwards, Claudine Bryan, Nicola Smethurst, Sarah Byford, Barbara Barrett
British Journal of Psychiatry 2007, 191: 427-35

BACKGROUND: Treatment guidelines identify few adequately powered trials to guide recommendations for anorexia nervosa.

AIMS: To evaluate the effectiveness of three readily available National Health Service treatments for adolescents (aged 12-18 years) with anorexia nervosa.

METHOD: Multicentre randomised controlled trial of 167 young people comparing in-patient, specialist out-patient and general child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) treatment.

RESULTS: Each group made considerable progress at 1 year, with further improvement by 2 years. Full recovery rates were poor (33% at 2 years, 27% still with anorexia nervosa). Adherence to in-patient treatment was only 50%. Neither in-patient nor specialist out-patient therapy demonstrated advantages over general CAMHS treatment by intention to treat, although some CAMHS out-patients were subsequently admitted on clinical grounds. In-patient treatment (randomised or after out-patient transfer) predicted poor outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: First-line in-patient psychiatric treatment does not provide advantages over out-patient management. Out-patient treatment failures do very poorly on transfer to in-patient facilities.

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