Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS): Retention strategy and results at 24 months

William F. Gourash, Faith Ebel, Kathy Lancaster, Abidemi Adeniji, Laurie Koozer Iacono, Jessie K. Eagleton, Anne Macdougall, Chelsea Cassady, Hallie Ericson, Walter Pories, Bruce M. Wolfe, Steven H. Belle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: Retaining participants in observational longitudinal studies after bariatric surgery is difficult yet critical because the retention rate affects interpretation and generalizability of results. Strategies for keeping participants involved in such studies are not commonly published. The objective of this study was to review LABS retention strategies and present the 24-month retention data. Methods: The LABS Consortium monitors an observational cohort study of 2458 adults enrolled before bariatric surgery at 10 centers within the United States (LABS-2). To maximize data completeness, the investigators developed retention strategies, including flexible scheduling, a call protocol, reminder letters, abbreviated visit options, honoraria, travel reimbursement, providing research progress reports, laboratory results, newsletters, study website, and retention surveys. Strategies for locating participants included frequent updates of contact information, sending registered letters, and searching medical and public records. Results: At 12 and 24 months, 2426 and 2405 participants remained active, with vital status known for 98.7% and 97.3% and weight obtained for 95.2% and 92.2%, respectively. There were 148 missed visits (6.2%) at 24 months primarily because of inability to contact the participant. Only 15 (0.6%) active participants at 24 months missed all follow-up visits. Although 42 participants could not be located or contacted at 6 months, data were obtained for 23 (54.7%) of them at 12 months, and of the 52 participants who could not be located or contacted at 12 months, data were obtained for 18 (34.6%) at 24 months. Conclusion: Longitudinal studies provide the ability to evaluate long-term effects of bariatric surgical procedures. The retention achieved in LABS is superior to that of many published reports but requires extensive effort and resources. This report identifies useful retention strategies. Further research is needed to identify the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of specific retention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-519
Number of pages6
JournalSurgery for Obesity and Related Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Attrition
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Follow-up
  • Longitudinal research
  • Retention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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