The British Journal of Psychiatry
Clinical effectiveness of treatments for anorexia nervosa in adolescents: Randomised controlled trial
Randomised controlled trial
SIMON G. GOWERS, ANDREW CLARK, CHRIS ROBERTS, ALISON GRIFFITHS, VANESSA EDWARDS, CLAUDINE BRYAN, NICOLA SMETHURST, SARAH BYFORD, BARBARA BARRETT

Abstract

Background Treatment guidelines identify few adequately powered trials to guide recommendations for anorexia nervosa.

Aims To evaluate the effectiveness of three readily available National Health Service treatments for adolescents (aged 12–18 years) with anorexia nervosa.

Method Multicentre randomised controlled trial of 167 young people comparing in-patient, specialist out-patient and general child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) treatment.

Results Each group made considerable progress at 1 year, with further improvement by 2 years. Full recovery rates were poor (33% at 2 years, 27% still with anorexia nervosa). Adherence to in-patient treatment was only 50%. Neither in-patient nor specialist out-patient therapy demonstrated advantages over general CAMHS treatment by intention to treat, although some CAMHS out-patients were subsequently admitted on clinical grounds. In-patient treatment (randomised or after out-patient transfer) predicted poor outcomes.

Conclusions First-line in-patient psychiatric treatment does not provide advantages over out-patient management. Out-patient treatment failures do very poorly on transfer to in-patient facilities.

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