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Impact of Surgery on Relationship Quality in Patients With Ulcerative Colitis and Their Partners

Cohan, Jessica N. M.D.1,2; Rhee, Jessica Y. B.A.2; Finlayson, Emily M.D., M.S.1,2; Varma, Madhulika G. M.D.2

doi: 10.1097/DCR.0000000000000494
Original Contributions: Inflammatory Bowel Disease

BACKGROUND: Although social support is important for quality of life in patients undergoing surgery for ulcerative colitis, the impact of surgery on patient relationships is not known.

OBJECTIVE: We examined relationship parameters in patients with ulcerative colitis and their partners before and 6 months after surgery.

DESIGN: This was a prospective cohort in which we performed an exploratory analysis.

SETTINGS: Patients were enrolled from an academic medical center.

PATIENTS: Surgical patients with ulcerative colitis and their partners were invited to participate.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients underwent proctocolectomy in 1, 2, or 3 stages.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We measured quality of life and sexual function in patients, as well as relationship quality, empathy, and sexual satisfaction in patients and partners before and 6 months after surgery using validated questionnaires.

RESULTS: The study sample consisted of 74 participants, including 37 patients (25 men and 12 women) and their opposite-sex partners. Quality of life improved significantly in male and female patients after surgery. Sexual function scores also improved after surgery in male and female patients; however, the changes reached statistical significance in male patients only. Sexual satisfaction scores improved significantly after surgery in female patients and their partners. There was little change in relationship quality or empathy after surgery, with the exception of slightly improved relationship quality reported by male partners. In general, patients and partners reported levels of relationship quality and empathy similar to normative populations.

LIMITATIONS: This study included a small, highly selected sample.

CONCLUSIONS: Male and female patients with ulcerative colitis have high-quality relationships that are not negatively affected by surgical treatment. Changes in sexual function do not necessarily coincide with changes in sexual satisfaction in this patient population. Future studies should evaluate the effect of high-quality relationships on surgical outcomes.

1 Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California

2 Section of Colorectal Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Podium presentation at the meeting of The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, Boston, MA, May 30 to June 3, 2015.

Funding/Support: Dr Cohan is funded by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (A123669), The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (A124496), and the University of California, San Francisco, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies.

Financial Disclosure: None reported.

Correspondence: Madhulika G. Varma, M.D., 550 16th St, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94158. E-mail: madhulika.varma@ucsfmedctr.org

© 2015 The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons