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ED management of patients with eating disorders.

BACKGROUND: Eating disorders are one of the "great masqueraders" of the twenty-first century. Seemingly healthy young men and women with underlying eating disorders present to emergency departments with a myriad of complaints that are not unique to patients with eating disorders. The challenge for the Emergency Medicine physician is in recognizing that these complaints result from an eating disorder and then understanding the unique pathophysiologic changes inherent to these disorders that should shape management in the emergency department.

OBJECTIVE: In this article, we will review, from the perspective of the Emergency Medicine physician, how to recognize patients with anorexia and bulimia nervosa, the medical complications and psychiatric comorbidities, and their appropriate management.

CONCLUSIONS: Anorexia and bulimia nervosa are complex psychiatric disorders with significant medical complications. Recognizing patients with eating disorders in the ED is difficult, but failure to recognize these disorders, or failure to manage their symptoms with an understanding of their unique underlying pathophysiology and psychopathology, can be detrimental to the patient. Screening tools, such as the SCOFF questionnaire, are available for use by the EM physician. Once identified, the medical complications described in this article can help the EM physician tailor management of the patient to their underlying pathophysiology and effectuate a successful therapeutic intervention.

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