What are IVC Filters?
IVC, short for inferior vena cava, filters are small metal devices that are placed inside of the body’s largest vein (the vena cava) to trap blood clots.
Clots form in the body all of the time and in most cases, dissolve before they pose a risk. If a clot does not dissolve on its own, it’s possible for it to travel to the lungs and trigger a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
There are occasions when a person is at higher risk for blood clots and in these cases, doctors often recommend IVC filters to trap clots and reduce the risk for a clot becoming problematic.
IVC filters can be either temporary and retrievable or permanent. Retrievable filters are intended to be used short-term when a person has a temporarily elevated risk for clotting. They are designed to be removed once the risk for pulmonary embolism has ceased.
Retrievable IVC Filters Can Put Users at Risk
Unfortunately, many doctors have left retrievable filters in place, putting patients at risk for complications. According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, temporary IVC filters left in place too long posed a significantly higher risk for complications.
Temporary filters are designed to be just that – temporary – and when patients do not return to their doctors to undergo the removal process, their risk for serious, even fatal, complications is heightened.
IVC Filter Complications
There are several different IVC filters on the market. Some of the most commonly used ones include:
- Bard Recovery
- Bard G2 Filter
- Bard G2 Express
- Cook Celect
- Cook Gunther Tulip
- Boston Scientific Greenfield
Complications can occur at any time with an IVC filter, though there is a greater likelihood for problems the longer a temporary filter is left in place.
Risks of IVC filter placement include:
- Puncture of a blood vessel
- Bleeding or bruising at the access site
- Incorrect placement of the filter
- Defective filter deployment
There can also be complications when a filter is retrieved. This is why some patients and doctors do not bother with retrieval, but it’s important to note: leaving a temporary filter in place for an extended period of time to avoid complications related to the retrieval process poses its own set of risks.
Complications that can occur during retrieval include:
- Inability to remove filter due to large clots
- Perforation of blood vessel
- Scarring of the vein that prevents removal
- Extended surgery time due to difficulty retrieving the device
Despite what can go wrong during placement and retrieval of the IVC filter, used properly, these devices can help patients avoid blood clot complications. However, too frequently, filters are not properly used.
Temporary filters left in the body beyond the recommended time increase the existing risk for:
- Filter breakage
- Filter migration to the heart or other organs
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Organ perforation
- Blockage by the device
These complications are extremely serious and in some cases can be fatal. Before using an IVC filter, make sure you discuss the potential for complications with your doctor. And if you’ve been implanted with a temporary filter, speak with your doctor about an appropriate retrieval timeframe (usually less than 60 days).
FDA Recalls Some IVC Filters
Problems with IVC filters have been so severe, the FDA has intervened and some devices have been recalled. Nearly 1000 adverse event reports were received by the agency between 2005 and 2010.
Due to the reports, the FDA has ordered additional data collection for some filters. A recall was issued for Boston Scientific’s Greenfield Vena Cava Filters in 2005, and in 2013, another recall was announced for the Cordis Corporation’s retrievable IVC filter.
IVC Filters Lawsuit
If you or a loved one has been injured or experienced complications because of an IVC filter, you might have a right to take legal action. Each case is unique and must be evaluated separately by a legal expert.