Three- and five-year follow-up results of a randomized controlled trial on the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy before bariatric surgery

Linda Paul, Colin van der Heiden, Daphne van Hoeken, Mathijs Deen, Ashley Vlijm, René Klaassen, L Ulas Biter, Hans W Hoek

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OBJECTIVE: Up to 37% of bariatric surgery patients suffer from insufficient weight loss or weight regain and mental health symptoms in the longer term. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be an effective adjunct intervention to optimize patients' psychological functioning and weight loss results. To examine the value of adding preoperative CBT to bariatric surgery, three- and five-year follow-up data are presented.

METHOD: In this multi-center randomized controlled trial (RCT; N = 130), a CBT group was compared to a treatment-as-usual (TAU) control group. Measurements were conducted at five time points: pretreatment (T0) and posttreatment/presurgery (T1) and at one- (T2; N = 120), three- (T3; N = 117), and five-year postsurgery (T4; N = 115). The intervention group received a 10-weeks, individual, preoperative CBT focused on self-monitoring, identifying triggers for disordered eating and goal setting for eating behavior and physical exercise, as well as postoperative lifestyle. Outcome measures included weight change, eating behavior, eating disorders, depression, quality of life (QoL), and overall psychological health.

RESULTS: Preoperative CBT was not associated with better three- and five-year results than TAU regarding weight, dysfunctional eating behaviors, eating disorders, depression, overall psychological health, and QoL.

DISCUSSION: Contrary to our hypothesis, three- and five-year postsurgery differences between groups regarding weight change and mental health were not significant.. Further exploration suggested that in both groups weight problems and depressive symptoms worsened at three and five-year follow-up. Future research should focus on long-term postoperative monitoring of weight and mood and on associated postoperative interventions and their specific timing.

PUBLIC SIGNIFICANCE: After bariatric surgery, in the longer term weight problems re-occur in 30% of patients, which is probably partly related to psychopathology. We investigated whether cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) prior to bariatric surgery improved weight maintenance and mental health after surgery. Our study provided definite proof that preoperative CBT is not effective. Long-term postoperative monitoring and prompt psychological intervention after first signs of deterioration, are important to prevent further problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1824-1837
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number12
Early online date21 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. International Journal of Eating Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

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