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BACKGROUND: Anorexia nervosa affects most organ systems, with 80% suffering from cardiovascular complications. AIMS: To define echocardiographic abnormalities in anorexia nervosa through systematic review and meta-analysis. METHOD: Two reviewers independently assessed eligibility of publications from Medline, EMBASE and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews registries. Studies were included if anorexia nervosa was the primary eating disorder and the main clinical association in described cardiac abnormalities. Data was extracted in duplicate and quality-assessed with a modified Newcastle-Ottawa scale. For continuous outcomes we calculated mean and standardised mean difference (SMD), and corresponding 95% confidence interval. For dichotomous outcomes we calculated proportion and corresponding 95% confidence interval. For qualitative data we summarised the studies. RESULTS: We identified 23 eligible studies totalling 960 patients, with a mean age of 17 years and mean body mass index of 15.2 kg/m2. Fourteen studies (469 participants) reported data suitable for meta-analysis. Cardiac abnormalities seen in anorexia nervosa compared with healthy controls were reduced left ventricular mass (SMD 1.82, 95% CI 1.32-2.31, P < 0.001), reduced cardiac output (SMD 1.92, 95% CI 1.38-2.45, P < 0.001), increased E/A ratio (SMD -1.10, 95% CI -1.67 to -0.54, P < 0.001), and increased incidence of pericardial effusions (25% of patients, P < 0.01, 95% CI 17-34%, I2 = 80%). Trends toward improvement were seen with weight restoration. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with anorexia nervosa have structural and functional cardiac changes, identifiable with echocardiography. Further work should determine whether echocardiography can help stratify severity and guide safe patient location, management and effectiveness of nutritional rehabilitation.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date



1 - 10


Anorexia nervosa, cardiac abnormalities, eating disorder, echocardiography, systematic review