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Crit Care. 2010;14(5):R172. doi: 10.1186/cc9274. Epub 2010 Sep 28.

Refeeding syndrome influences outcome of anorexia nervosa patients in intensive care unit: an observational study.

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  • 1General ICU, Estaing Hospital, University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand, 1 Place Lucie Aubrac, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.



Data on the epidemiology and management of anorexia nervosa (AN) in the intensive care unit (ICU) are scarce. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence and associated morbidity and mortality of AN in French ICUs.


We randomly selected 30 ICUs throughout France. Thereafter, we retrospectively analyzed all patients with AN admitted to any of these 30 ICUs between May 2006 and May 2008. We considered demographic data, diagnosis at admission and complications occurring during the stay, focusing on refeeding syndrome and management of refeeding.


Eleven of the 30 ICUs participated in the retrospective study, featuring 68 patients, including 62 women. Average body mass index at the admission was 12 ± 3 kg/m2. Twenty one were mechanically ventilated, mainly for neurological reasons. The reported average calorie intake was 22.3 ± 13 kcal/kg/24 h. Major diagnoses at admission were metabolic problems, refeeding survey and voluntary drug intoxication and infection. The most common complications were metabolic, hematological, hepatic, and infectious events, of which 10% occurred during refeeding. Seven patients developed refeeding syndrome. At day one, the average calorie intake was higher for patients who developed refeeding syndrome (23.2 ± 5 Kcal/kg/j; n = 7) versus patients without refeeding syndrome (14.1 ± 3 Kcal/kg/j; n = 61) P = 0.02. Seven patients died, two from acute respiratory distress syndrome and five from multiorgan-failure associated with major hydroelectrolytic problems.


The frequency of AN in ICU patients is very low and the crude mortality in this group is about 10%. Prevention and early-detection of refeeding syndrome is the key point.

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