Anorexia nervosa manifesting as massive ascites, hypercholesterolemia, and sequential binge eating in an 11-year-old girl: A case report

Hung Hao Fan, I. Cheng Lin, Jing Er Chen, Wei Hua Lee, Shiuh Bin Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


RATIONALE: Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder associated with a distorted body image. Hypercholesterolemia has been found in patients with AN but the mechanism of hyperlipidemia in AN remains little known. Ascites in patients with AN has been attributed to hypoalbuminemia and liver diseases, but massive ascites without the aforementioned etiologies has never been reported in AN. PATIENT CONCERNS: An 11-year-old girl was admitted for exclusion of organic underlying diseases due to severe body weight loss (18% within 3 weeks), poor appetite, and hypercholesterolemia (274 mg/dL). She complained of heartburn sensation, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and postprandial dull abdominal pain with fullness. DIAGNOSES: The patient's condition met with all 3 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for diagnosing AN. On admission, her total cholesterol level was 337 mg/dL and hypocomplementemia (C3 55.5 mg/dL) was also found. Abdominal sonography and computed tomography scans showed massive ascites. However, neither proteinuria nor hypoalbuminemia was found. Upper gastroduodenal endoscopy showed chronic superficial gastritis and colonoscopy revealed negative findings. Ascites obtained by paracentesis demonstrated a transudate without bacterial infection, tuberculosis, or pancreatitis. Exploratory laparoscopy showed nonpurulent ascites. However, biopsies from the small intestine, mesentery, and liver showed chronic inflammation and fibrosis. INTERVENTIONS: The intensive nutritional therapy by increasing total energy intake stepwise with a combination of high-energy formula and her favorite foods. OUTCOMES: Her hypercholesterolemia, hypocomplementemia, and massive ascites resolved after her weight was restored. She developed binge eating with continuous weight gain after discharge. Her weight significantly increased to an obese level (body mass index [BMI] 25.9 kg/m) after loss to follow-up for 4 years until she returned to our emergency room due to suicide attempt. CONCLUSION: Diagnostic crossover between subtypes in anorexia nervosa might be a potential risk factor for illness severity and poor prognosis. AN can manifest as massive ascites with normal albumin concentrations that could possibly be due to chronic inflammation of the intestinal serosa, mesentery, and peritoneal surface of the liver.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere21739
Pages (from-to)e21739
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - Aug 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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