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Parotid gland enlargement in eating disorders: an insensitive sign?

OBJECTIVE: To study, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the parotid glands of patients who self-induce vomiting and in particular to observe the effects of cessation of this behaviour. The morphological features and composition of enlarged parotid glands in this group, compared with normal controls, were also examined.

METHOD: MRI scans of the parotid glands were performed on 5 controls and 5 subjects with a purging form of eating disorder, at cessation of vomiting and 6 to 9 weeks later.

RESULTS: Parotid volumes are accurately measured using MRI. Enlarged parotids are not a consistent feature of subjects with eating disorders who self-induce vomiting.

CONCLUSION: Absence of salivary gland enlargement does not exclude significant vomiting behaviour and clinicians should remain alert to the possibility of undisclosed vomiting.

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