After starving himself for 44 days in a transparent box, hanging by London's River Thames, illusionist David Blaine was recovering in hospital.

The crazy stunt ended late on Sunday with a filthy, unshaven Blaine being carried away by stretcher into an ambulance to be taken to the London Independent Hospital.

Doctors said he had taken his body to the limit. Blaine says he consumed only water during his ordeal.

"Forty-four days is about as far as you can go without long-term damage. Another week would have probably killed him," said Tom Sanders, a nutrition expert at Kings College London.

Doctors said Blaine now faced disorientation, muscle wastage, and may have harmed his appetite, which would put him at a longer-term risk of eating disorders.

Blaine reported an irregular heartbeat while still in the box and doctors said his body would have cannibalised its own muscles, including tissue in the heart.

Blaine was suspended from a
crane near Tower Bridge in London

Continued risk

"If he eats a normal diet straight away his blood pressure could shoot up and put him at risk of heart failure," said Sanders of Kings College.

An estimated quarter of a million people visited Blaine's box, suspended from a crane near the landmark, Tower Bridge.

Not everyone was impressed by his stunt though.

"I learned how important it is to have a sense of humour and to laugh at everything because nothing makes any sense," Blaine said on Monday, visibly thinner and leaning on aides for support.

Public reaction to the stunt was mixed, with some saying the idea was insulting to the world's hungry and others praising Blaine's stamina.

'Fans' of Blaine

Blaine-baiters – as they became known – pelted his box with golf balls, one man climbed up to cut off his water supply.

And in a more elaborate act, Blaine was taunted with a cheeseburger dangled from a miniature helicopter.

Blaine sold the television rights to broadcasters Sky TV and Channel 4, in deals worth at least one million dollars.

Blaine, whose previous stunts include live burial in a glass coffin and being encased in a block of ice, had shown signs of delusion and claustrophobia while in the box. 

He dreamed of worms in his stomach and said the Perspex walls "feel like they're crushing my skull."