Background

Weight regain is common among bariatric surgery patients starting at two years post-surgery, which suggests a need for additional support, such as from romantic partners, to help patients maintain long-term weight loss. The objective of this study was to examine the preliminary effect of partner attendance during routine bariatric surgery clinical appointments from two months pre- to two months post-surgery on patient and partner weight-related and relationship outcomes.

Methods

The study utilized a randomized control trial to assign patients to either partner-attended clinical visits, in which partners were invited to appointments, or treatment-as-usual. Patient weight-related outcomes were percent excess weight loss (%EWL) and change in body mass index (cBMI); the partner weight-related outcome was weight control strategies. Patient and partner relationship outcomes included relationship quality, security, and social support. Data was analyzed using descriptives, parametric and non-parametric independent and paired samples t-tests, and estimates of effect size comparing the two arms.

Results

Patients experienced significant changes in %EWL and cBMI, but that did not significantly differ between arms; there were also no significant changes between arms in patients’ reports of relationship outcomes. Partners who attended appointments reported an increase in weight control strategies from pre- to post-surgery, pre-surgery they reported less support for exercise, and post-surgery they reported less insecurity in their relationship.

Conclusions

Given the rapid changes that patients experience post-surgery, they may focus more internally on their own needs, rather than on romantic relationships. However, as a result of attendance, partners appear to be more sensitive to patients’ needs and immediate changes made post-surgery. Further research is needed to see what the sustained effects are of partner attendance on long-term outcomes past 2 months post-surgery.