IVC Filters

About IVC Filters

The purpose of IVC (Inferior Vena Cava) Filters is to prevent formed blood clots from reaching the heart, lungs and brain. They are generally surgically placed into the inferior vena cava of a patient. This is the largest vein in the body, moving blood from the legs to the heart, and then into the lungs. When blood clots develop here, this is called deep venous thrombosis. When this condition develops, there is a chance that clots can travel to the lungs and become a pulmonary embolism, preventing normal blood flow to the lungs. Pulmonary Embolisms cause somewhere in the range of 300,000 deaths per year.

IVCs are beneficial to those who cannot take blood thinners, as it is an alternative way of breaking up blood clots. They have been used since the late 70’s with increasing popularity. Two types have been developed – retrievable and non-retrievable. The retrievable IVC’s are designed to be removed when the patient no longer needs them. Unfortunately, this type is more susceptible to issues such as perforation of organs, migration, and breaking.

In 2010 the FDA issued an alert, warning of dangers associated with retrievable IVC filters. At this time, they had received over 1,000 complaints of adverse events relating to the filters. These filters should be removed once the patient is no longer at risk of a pulmonary embolism. One primary concern is that the devices were staying in longer than medically necessary, leading to perforation of organs, the device breaking into multiple fragments, and the migration of the devices to other parts of the body.

Further studies have confirmed the initial FDA alert. Certain models have been shown to have exceedingly high rates of complications. One model has been shown to have migrated out of place in 40% of patients.