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Unique challenges for appropriate management of a 16-year-old girl with superior mesenteric artery syndrome as a result of anorexia nervosa: a case report.

INTRODUCTION: Nausea and vomiting in an adolescent, though common presenting symptoms, often pose a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge to the physician. When the diagnosis involves both medical and psychiatric components, management can be complex, especially in the current healthcare system in the United States. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no previous publications detailing successful management of a patient with anorexia nervosa and superior mesenteric artery syndrome.

CASE PRESENTATION: We report the case of a 16-year-old Caucasian girl who presented to our emergency department with nausea, abdominal pain, diminished appetite and vomiting. Her history and examination were notable for a 15 kg weight loss and diffuse abdominal tenderness. A barium swallow X-ray with small bowel follow-through and computed tomography scan demonstrated remarkable duodenal narrowing between the superior mesenteric artery and the aorta, consistent with superior mesenteric artery syndrome. Initial management focused on relieving the obstruction and supporting the nutritional needs of the patient. Further history confirmed a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, requiring intensive psychiatric and medical management, and necessitating a multifaceted approach to patient care involving social work, multiple primary care physicians and subspecialists, insurance company representatives, and the patient's immediate family.

CONCLUSION: This case illustrates important points regarding the pathogenesis of superior mesenteric artery syndrome in the setting of anorexia, and it highlights the complexities that arise when managing an adolescent with both medical and psychiatric needs, as well as outlining a viable solution. While superior mesenteric artery syndrome is an uncommon cause of small bowel obstruction, the general pediatrician and child psychiatrist should be aware of this complication of anorexia nervosa.

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