Anorexia may cause emphysema, study suggests

CHICAGO Malnutrition resulting from anorexia nervosa may cause emphysema, according to research presented today at the 89th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

For the first time, researchers used a new method of assessing computed tomography (CT) scans to analyze the lungs of anorexic patients and found that malnutrition changes the physical structure of the lung. "There is a reduction in the amount of lung tissue in patients with anorexia nervosa," said Harvey O. Coxson, Ph.D., lead author of the study from Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) in Canada.

"It is unclear whether these structural changes are permanent," he said, "but if they are, early therapy is important in patients who have anorexia." Dr. Coxson is an assistant professor of radiology at the University of British Columbia and an investigator at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute at VGH and at the James Hogg iCAPTURE Centre for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver.

Anorexia nervosa, which primarily affects young women, is an eating disorder characterized by voluntary starvation. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that between 0.5 and 3.7 percent of female Americans will suffer from anorexia during their lifetime. Eighty-six percent of patients report disease onset before age 20. In severe cases, the lack of nourishment to the body can result in serious heart, kidney and liver damage. "Anorexia nervosa is the purest form of malnutrition," Dr. Coxson said.

For this study, Dr. Coxson and colleagues compared CT findings from 14 patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and 16 control patients. None of the patients had a family history of lung disease. In addition to providing detailed images, CT measured the absorbance of x-rays within the lung.

The x-ray absorbance values were then converted to measurements of lung structure and were compared

Contact: Maureen Morley
Radiological Society of North America

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