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An Examination of Inpatient Treatment for Adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa

  • Note: this is a past research project that is now complete. 


    The objective of this study is to examine the experience of hospitalisation at the Royal Children's Hospital for adolescents with anorexia nervosa as well as their parents. As such, adolescents hospitalised for the treatment of anorexia nervosa, as well as their parents, will be questioned about their attitudes, satisfaction, and experiences regarding hospitalisation and nasogastric feeding.

    Project description

    The treatment of anorexia nervosa is complex, as it is a psychological disorder with sometimes life-threatening medical complications. While most individuals are treated as outpatients, some require hospitalisation due to their physical compromise and inability to gain weight. The goals of inpatient treatment typically involve medical and nutritional stabilisation. While research has shown that inpatient treatment is extremely effective in ensuring short-term weight gain and medical stabilisation, the long-term benefits of inpatient treatment are uncertain. In fact, some studies suggest that there are no significant differences in the success or recovery rates for individuals treated in inpatient and outpatient services.

    Approximately 50 adolescent females between the ages of 12 and 18, as well as their parents, will be asked to participate in the study. Adolescents will be interviewed about their readiness for recovery, their attitudes, experiences, and satisfaction with hospitalisation and nasogastric tube feeding. Parents will be asked about their attitudes, experiences, and satisfaction regarding their child's hospitalisation and nasogastric tube feeding. Adolescents and their parents will be interviewed separately on two occasions: the first interview will occur within 48 hours of admission and the second within the 48 hours before hospital discharge.

    The information gathered will provide a better understanding of the experience of hospitalisation for those with anorexia nervosa as well as their parents. We intend to use this information to improve the effectiveness of inpatient treatment of anorexia nervosa and hope that this will improve the prognosis for those hospitalised.


    Research reveals new anorexia nervosa findings (2014) RCH news

    Whitelaw, M., Gilbertson, H., Lee, K. J., & Sawyer, S. M. (2014). Restrictive eating disorders among adolescent inpatients. Pediatrics134(3), e758–e764.


    Susan Sawyer