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Eating Disorders Inpatient Unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado


What is the Eating Disorders Inpatient Unit?

The Eating Disorders Inpatient Unit is an innovative complement to our continuum of care, specialized to meet the needs of kids and teens with eating disorders. The unit can accommodate seven patients in five private rooms and one semi-private room. Patients participate in the Eating Disorders Day Treatment Program and continue to receive individual and family therapy, nutrition therapy, medical monitoring and psychiatric assessment.

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado?

We have over 25 years of experience in helping kids with eating disorders. Our staff are all specialized in pediatric medical and psychiatric care and emphasize the role of the family in treatment and recovery. We serve kids and families from across the United States with our unique approach to parent-supported nutrition and recovery.

What to expect from the program

A patient with an eating disorder who is not medically stable is admitted to the Inpatient Medical Unit at Children's Hospital Colorado. Some causes of medical instability include:

  • Abnormal electrolyte levels
  • Significant weight loss
  • Low heart rate
  • Frequent bingeing and purging

A team of specialists from Adolescent Medicine and the Eating Disorders Program works together to care for the child, adolescent or teen. Inpatient medical care includes 24-hour cardiac monitoring, bed rest and carefully increasing caloric intake to minimize the risk of medical complications, including refeeding syndrome (a metabolic problem that can happen to patients who are starved or severely malnourished).

Medical interventions include monitoring blood chemistry and addressing medical conditions associated with the refeeding process, which is a medically complex time. A child/adolescent psychiatrist and a family therapist also evaluate the patient and work with the family to coordinate an individualized treatment plan. The goal of hospitalization is to achieve medical stability and evaluate further treatment needs.

Additional services

Additional services for hospitalized patients include:

  • Nutrition interventions
    A registered dietician from the Eating Disorder Program meets with parents to explain the role of nutrition therapy during medical care. Parents work with the dietician on meal planning and begin to learn about meal support and supervision, including planning meals while their child is in the hospital.
  • Therapeutic meals
    Meal time can be difficult for kids and teens with an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Our nursing staff provides supervision and support as patients work to normalize eating patterns and work through anxiety related to food and weight.
  • Individual and family therapy
    Individual and family therapy is an integral part of all levels of care. The frequency and type of therapy are based on a patient’s medical stability, age and readiness to make changes.
  • Body image assessment
    Our therapeutic recreation/child life specialist works with patients to address issues related to body image. Body mapping and other activities help provide insight into the patient’s body image distortion.
  • Transition from the inpatient medical environment
    As a patient's medical stability improves, treatment is focused toward continued recovery. Our recommendations for care are based on the unique needs of the patient and the family. After hospitalization in the medical unit, many patients move to the outpatient eating disorders program or the Day Treatment Program on their course to recovery.