Are IVC Filters Safe?

The inferior vena cava (IVC) filter is a small, umbrella-shaped, metal device implanted into the body’s largest vein to stop blood clots from reaching the lungs and heart. For some patients and under certain circumstances IFC filters may save lives. Other patients may be injured or die due to IVC filter complications. Complications from IVC filter procedures can include:

  • Allergic reaction to the device
  • Blood clot filters that fracture causing pieces of the filter to migrate
  • Blood flow blockage in the inferior vena cava, causing leg swelling
  • Blood vessel damage at the insertion site
  • Continued risk of pulmonary embolism (PE)
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Extensive scar formation leading to a narrowing or total blockage of the IVC
  • Infection
  • Injury or death from a filter that travels into the heart or lungs
  • Pain or organ damage from a filter that punctures through the IVC walls
  • Placement problems

Lung cancer is responsible for around25% of all cancer-related deaths (Source: Pintas & Mullins). If you have lung cancer or another condition and your doctor has recommended an IVC filter and you’re wondering if you should consent, this is the article for you.

What Is an IVC Filter?

IVC filters are implanted into a large vein called the inferior vena cava (IVC). When oxygen-poor blood is pumped from the lower part of your body to your lungs to pick up oxygen, the blood flows through the IVC where the filter is implanted. The filter’s job is to catch blood clots before they can get to the heart and lungs, thereby preventing PE.

The IVC filter placement operation is performed by a surgeon using a flexible catheter (tube). The catheter is used to insert the collapsed filter into the body through a tiny incision made in a vein located in the neck or groin. The catheter is guided through the vein and into the IVC. When the catheter is removed the filter expands and connects itself to the IVC wall.

Why are IVC Filters Used?

IVC filters are often placed in trauma patients who have been admitted to the hospital. These patients are at increased risk of bleeding and thrombosis (blood clots).

Blood thinner or clot-busting medications are often given to hospitalized patients to prevent VTE (venous thromboembolism) or to treat acute venous thrombosis. People at risk of PE may be treated with blood thinners alone or with an IVC filter implant.

Sometimes blood thinner medications cannot be used in a patient due to dangerous bleeding. This is often the case in trauma patients, for example, in cases involving gastrointestinal bleeding or brain bleeds from trauma. Blood thinners in these situations could be life-threatening and a doctor may recommend using a blood clot filter alone to guard against PE.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association sought to determine if IVC filters would affect the overall mortality of this population. They found no difference in overall survival rates and the authors of the study recommended against placing IVC filters in trauma patients to increase their overall survival rates.

What to Do If You’ve Suffered Complications

IVC filters can cause serious injury even when your surgeon follows proper procedures and recommendations. One particular IVC filter was manufactured with a fatal flaw that caused at least 27 deaths. If you or a loved one have been injured by an IVC filter, seek consultation with a lung cancer lawyer who has the experience you’ll need in court.

Complications from IVC filters can result in medical bills, missed work, and other expenses. Depending on the circumstances of your case you may be able to seek compensation from a doctor, a hospital, or the filter’s manufacturer. An attorney can tell you if you have a viable case, instruct you about the evidence you’ll need to collect, and negotiate with insurance.


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