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New Scan Spots Beginning of Bone Problems in Anorexics
Date:11/19/2008

Structural abnormalities start early, researchers report

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new scanning technology has detected previously unnoticed bone abnormalities in adolescent girls afflicted with the eating disorder anorexia.

"What we have found in this study is an exciting new thing," said Dr. Miriam A. Bredella, lead author of a report in the December issue of Radiology. "Prior studies have shown only decreased bone density. We show abnormalities of bone structure. Our data suggest that tests showing normal values of bone density in these adolescents do not reflect the true status of bone structure."

The new study "shows that the quality of bone in women with anorexia is not normal, which is something we have suspected for a while, because they fracture even with normal bones," said Dr. Michelle Warren, a professor of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, who has done studies of her own on the subject.

"This CT methodology is new and gives better knowledge about what is going on in the bones, because it gives information about their architecture," Warren said.

In terms of medical treatment of women with anorexia, "it shows that we really should pay more attention not only to the absolute value of the bones, but also to how much weight an individual has lost," she said.

Anorexia is characterized by a distorted body image and intense fear of gaining weight that leads to dangerous food deprivation. It occurs primarily in young women, affecting perhaps one of every 100 adolescent girls, according to the U.S. National Women's Health Information Center.

Bone studies in anorexia typically use X-rays. The newly reported research used a technique called high-resolution, flat-panel volume computer tomography to compare the bones of 10 girls, aged 13 to 18, with mild anorexia with those of 10 age-matched girls without the eating disorder.

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