IVC Filter Placement
IVC stands for inferior vena cava which is a major blood vessel in your body. The IVC brings blood from the lower parts of your body back to the heart. An IVC filter is a small specially shaped device made out of stainless steel or nitinol (nickel titanium) that is placed in the IVC to prevent blood clots from traveling from the lower part of your body to your lungs.
There are several reasons someone may need a filter placed. These include patients with increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clot formation in the veins of the legs, or pulmonary embolism (PE), a blood clot that travels to your lungs. A blood clot that travels to the lungs can be extremely dangerous because it can block oxygen from getting to the lungs and may cause sudden shortness of breath and/or death. The best estimates indicate that 350,000-600,000 Americans suffer from DVT and PE each year and you may be at increased risk if you have blood clotting problems, after trauma such as a head injury or a fractured pelvis, after certain surgeries, or any event or medical condition that would decrease your level of activity.
In most cases blood thinning medications or anticoagulants are given to prevent further clots from forming after an initial clot has been identified in your body. If you have had recent surgery, trauma, a bleeding disorder, or you have developed a clot while on one of these medications an IVC filter will then be placed. The filter is designed to allow blood flow back to the heart even if clots are trapped within it.
The filter will be placed in the interventional radiology department by an interventional radiologist who is a specially trained doctor in minimally invasive procedures. Image guidance such as ultrasound (US) and fluoroscopy (x-rays) will be used by the doctor to place the filter in the proper location through a vein in your neck or groin.
There are permanent and retrievable filters that can be placed. Permanent filters remain in your body indefinitely. Retrievable filters are placed when the condition that led to the filter placement is not permanent. In these cases once you recover you will either be active again, no longer at risk for clots or you will be able to take blood thinning medications to prevent clots in the future. Your doctors will decide which type of filter is right for you.
If you receive a retrievable filter the interventional radiologist will follow you after its placement. He/she will be in contact with your primary doctor and together they will decide when it is appropriate to have the filter removed.
Both the placement and removal of the filter is done as an outpatient same day procedure or can be done while you are in the hospital.
The risks listed here are rare. Discuss with your doctor your concerns. Medications can be provided if needed to help prevent or relieve any pain from the procedure.