About IVC Filters
What is an IVC Filter?
IVC stands for Inferior vena cava which is a major blood vessel that returns blood from the lower body to the heart. An IVC filter is a small piece of metal, made of nitinol or stainless steel that can be placed into the IVC to prevent blood clots in the legs from traveling to the lungs.
Why would a IVC Filter would be placed?
An IVC filter would be placed if you were diagnosed with a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Pulmonary Embolism (PE) together known as venous thromboembolism (VTE) and were not able to take blood thinning medications also known as anticoagulants. Some people are unable to take anticoagulation medication because of recent trauma, a planned or scheduled surgery, or are at high risk for bleeding. Other people continue to develop clots, are unable to reach a therapeutic dose, or have bleeding complications while taking these medications. An IVC filter would then be placed to protect clots from traveling to the lungs.
What are the Risks?
Both permanent and retrievable filters carry similar risks. When either filter is placed there is a risk for bleeding and infection, the filter tilting in the IVC, or clots collecting in the filter. If several clots are trapped in the IVC filter this may cause clot formation down the IVC causing leg swelling, hyperpigmentation, or ulceration of the lower extremities. This is called post-thrombotic syndrome.
A retrievable filter can always be left in place permanently if your doctor decides this is best for you or it can be removed and replaced at a later date if needed.
Ask your doctor if you have questions on the benefits and risks of IVC filters.
There are two types of IVC filters that can be placed. Your doctor will determine which type of filter is right for you.
These filters are placed in patients that have a permanent contraindication or complication to anticoagulation medications, patients that are elderly, or have a poor prognosis (survival < 6 months). They are permanently left in place in the inferior vena cava in your body.
These filters are placed and then can be removed once your risk for clotting has been decreased. Retrievable, also called optional filters, are placed in people that only have a temporary risk of VTE or need to hold their anticoagulation medications for surgery or temporary bleeding problems.
If you receive a retrievable filter a staff member from the IVC Filter Clinic will contact your doctor and they will determine when it is safe to have your filter removed. Once it is decided that is safe to remove your filter the IVC Filter Clinic coordinator will contact you and assist you in scheduling for the filter to be removed.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) / Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Prevention
Every year 350,000 – 600,000 Americans suffer from DVT/PE, and at least 100,000 deaths may be directly or indirectly related to VTE. Roughly one out of ten hospital deaths are related to PE. For more information on prevention of DVT and PE go to: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/deepvein/calltoaction/call-to-action-on-dvt-2008.pdf to read The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism 2008.
Who is at increased risk for DVT or PE?
- People on extended car or plane rides
- People taking hormone replacement therapy such as estrogen or birth control pills
- People who smoke
- Pregnant women
- Cancer patients
- Patients that are hospitalized, in nursing homes, or rehabilitation facilities
- Mobile patients undergoing minor surgery
- Medical patients who are fully mobile
- General surgery patients
- Patients having gynecologic, urologic, hip or knee, bariatric, orthopedic, neuro or spinal surgery
- Patients on bedrest
- Patients that have had major trauma or spinal cord injury
DVT- swelling or edema, pain, and warmth to one leg
PE- sudden cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, and wheezing
Diagnosis of DVT/PE is based on individual patient risk factors
While in the hospital: