From efficacy to effectiveness: child and adolescent eating disorder treatments in the real world (part 1)—treatment course and outcomes

Mima Simic*, Catherine S. Stewart, Anna Konstantellou, John Hodsoll, Ivan Eisler, Julian Baudinet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Findings from randomised control trials inform the development of evidence-based eating disorder (ED) practice guidelines internationally. Only recently are data beginning to emerge regarding how these treatments perform outside of research settings. This study aimed to evaluate treatment pathways and outcomes for a specialist child and adolescent ED service across a five-year period.


All consecutive referrals between August 2009 and January 2014 seen at the Maudsley Centre for Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders in London were included. Data are reported on for all young people who were offered treatment (N = 357).


Most young people referred to the service were diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (AN)/Atypical AN (81%). Treatment for AN/Atypical AN (median 11 months) was predominantly ED focused family therapy (99%). Treatment for bulimia nervosa (BN)/Atypical BN (median seven months) was most commonly a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and ED focused family therapy (87%). At discharge, 77% of the AN/Atypical AN group had a good or intermediate outcome and 59% of the BN/Atypical BN group reported no or fewer than weekly bulimic episodes. 27% of the AN/Atypical AN group had enhanced treatment with either day- and/or inpatient admissions (AIM group). The %mBMI at 3 months of treatment was strongest predictor of the need for treatment enhancement and more modestly EDE-Q and age at assessment. The AIM group at assessment had significantly lower weight, and higher ED and comorbid symptomatology and went on to have significantly longer treatment (16 vs. 10 months). At discharge, this group had significantly fewer good and more poor outcomes on the Morgan Russell criteria, but similar outcomes regarding ED and comorbid symptoms and quality of life. When analysis was adjusted for %mBMI at assessment, 1 and 3 months of treatment, differences in Morgan Russell outcomes and %mBMI were small and compatible with no difference in outcome by treatment group.


This study shows that outcomes in routine clinical practice in a specialist community-based service compare well to those reported in research trials. The finding from research trials that early weight gain is associated with improved outcomes was also replicated in this study. Enhancing outpatient treatment with day treatment and/or inpatient care is associated with favourable outcome for most of the young people, although a longer duration of treatment is required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Early online date21 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2022


  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Child
  • Family based treatment
  • Family therapy for anorexia nervosa
  • Family therapy for bulimia nervosa


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