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Br J Psychiatry. 2007 Nov;191:427-35.

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

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  • 1Academic Unit, Section of Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Liverpool, Chester, UK.



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


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


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


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.


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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