Thursday, November 25, 2010

Should you know your band's fill level?

I've always known my band size and fill amounts, not because anyone volunteered that information but because I asked for it. I'm a very curious person who loves information (especially when it pertains to me!) and I ask a lot of questions. If my parents were still alive, I'm sure they'd testify to that.

Quite often I've heard bandsters ask, "Why won't my surgeon tell me how much fill is in my band? When I ask, he/she says it doesn't matter."

In a way, those doctors are right, because how much fill you have at 2:00 pm on October 3rd is only one of the things that affects your restriction that day, and at 2:00 pm on October 4th, with the exact same amount of fill, your experience of restriction could be completely different than it was the day before. The most important thing about your fill level is: does it produce the early and prolonged satiety that helps you lose weight?

But those doctors are also wrong.

That band is inside YOUR body. You (or your insurance company) paid for it, and it is YOUR property. Legally, you have a right to see all your medical records, including file notes about your band size and fill level. Some medical practices charge the patient a fee for photocopying or printing those records, but whether the info is free or costs you $5 or $15, it should be available to you upon demand (be reasonable though: the office person who has to do that for you probably already has a zillion items on her/his to-do list).

You also should have your fill level data because at some point, it might have a direct influence on how you evaluate your weight loss success and how you make decisions about how to deal with inadequate weight loss. For example: you have a 10cc band, have had 14 fills, and have not yet experienced any restriction. Is that because your surgeon has been doling out miniscule fills (like .1 cc at a time)? Is it because your band's tubing is leaking? Is it because the band just doesn't work for you?

Let's say that after a year of struggle, you have lost 5 pounds and have 1.4 cc in your 10 cc band. A whole year has been wasted because you didn't have enough information to advocate for bigger fills. Or let's say you discover that you have 9.75 cc in that 10 cc what do you do? Will your insurance pay for you to revise to a different WLS procedure? Are you going to have to start all over again with your research, tests and evaluations, insurance approval, scheduling and undergoing surgery, recovering, and getting back on some kind of wagon, be it the sleeve or the bypass or the duodenal switch wagon? If you had known your fill level 3 months or 6 months earlier, would you have started all those chores before and/or had a heart-to-heart chat with your surgeon at that time instead of at this late date?

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