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Heart risk associated with weight loss in anorexia nervosa and eating disorders: electrocardiographic changes during the early phase of refeeding

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Refeeding syndromes with electrolyte aberrations, heart failure and arrhythmias may complicate the nutritional rehabilitation of emaciated patients with eating disorders. Therefore, electrocardiographic (ECG) changes and changes in serum electrolyte concentrations following refeeding were studied in 37 admissions of 32 teenage girls with eating disorders. On admission they were all on a weight‐losing course and weighed 37.0 ± 8.0 kg (mean ± SD) following a weight loss of 14.2 ± 7.2 kg. On ECG recordings there was a prolongation of the QT interval and an increased QT dispersion. Serum concentrations of sodium, potassium and magnesium were with few exceptions normal. Serum concentrations of creatinine were high in relation to the low body weight, indicating protein catabolism. The first 2 wk of refeeding resulted in a weight gain of 1.7 ± 0.2 kg without signs of refeeding syndromes or electrolyte aberrations. QT prolongation and dispersion normalized within the 3 d of refeeding.
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Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; QT dispersion; QT interval; eating disorder; electrocardiogram; refeeding; refeeding syndrome; serum creatinine; serum electrolytes; serum potassium; serum sodium; starvation; weight loss

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University Children's Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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