IVC Filter FAQ
  • What is an IVC filter?

The inferior vena cava (IVC) is a major vein that carries blood from the lower body into the heart. An IVC filter is a spider-like wire device inserted into this vein in patients who are at high risk of pulmonary embolism (a blockage in one of the arteries in the lungs). The IVC filter’s purpose is to prevent blood clots from entering the heart, lungs or brain by catching the clots in the bloodstream and allowing them to break down over time. The filters often are used with patients who are not able to take anticoagulant medication (drugs that help prevent blood clots).

  • Who undergoes an IVC filter implant?

IVC filters are implanted in patients who have a history of or are at risk of developing blood clots in the legs, including patients: (1) Diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis (2) Diagnosed with Pulmonary Embolism (3) Have faced Trauma Attacks in past (4) Who cannot do any Body Movement (5) Who recently had a Surgery (6) Who has delivered a Baby

  • What is the purpose of IVC filters?

IVC filters are designed to filter or “catch” blood clots (called “thrombi”) emanating in the legs before they reach the lungs. Blood clots in legs are called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. A blood clot in the lungs is referred to as a pulmonary embolism or PE, which can be fatal. Importantly, retrievable IVC filters — the type of IVC filter most patients receive – are intended for short-term placement and should be removed after the risk of blood clots passes.

  • What are some common problems after an IVC filter implant?

There can be one or many complications after an IVC filter implant such as, Chest Pain, Confusion, Heart Rhythm Problems, Hypotension Stroke, Lightheadedness , Nausea, Neck Pain, Shortness of Breath, Hemorrhaging, Pulmonary Embolism and also Death.

  • Are IVC filters commonly used?

Yes. IVC filter usage has increased rapidly in the past 30 years. Tens of thousands of patients in the U.S. are implanted with IVC filters annually. In 1979, 2,000 IVC filters were implanted, while in 2007, that number was nearly 167,000 with over 250,000 used in 2012. The market leaders in the sale of IVC filters are Cordis Corporation, Cook Medical, and C.R. Bard, Inc.

  • How an IVC filter can be a risk?

Blood clots that develop in the veins of the leg or pelvis, a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), occasionally break up and large pieces of the clot can travel to the lungs. An IVC filter is a small metal device that traps large clot fragments and prevents them from traveling through the vena cava vein to the heart and lungs, where they could cause severe complications such as pain, difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath or even death.

  • Is an IVC filter retrievable?

Until recently, IVC filters were available only as permanently implanted devices. Newer filters, called optionally retrievable filters, may be left in place permanently or have the option to potentially be removed from the blood vessel later. This removal may be performed when the risk of clot travelling to the lung has passed. Removal of an IVC filter eliminates any long term risks of having the filter in place such as filter fracture or recurrent DVT. It does not address the cause of the deep vein thrombosis or coagulation. Your referring physician will determine if blood thinners are still necessary. However, not all retrievable IVC filters are able to be retrieved if the risk of clots traveling to the lung persists. These filters can be left in place as permanent filters.

  • What is an IVC filter also known as?

Inferior Vena Cava Filter is also known as Blood Clot Filter. An IVC filter is a small metal device designed to prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs. The filter is placed in the inferior vena cava (the large vein that takes blood back to the heart) typically just below the kidneys using a catheter type deployment device.

  • If a person has PE, should he/she implant an IVC filter?

No. The usual therapy for a patient at risk for blood clots traveling from the legs to the lungs is anticoagulation drug therapy, such as heparin or Coumadin. IVC filters, however, are inserted in patients when medications to dissolve clots cannot be used or are ineffective. For example, IVC filters have been increasingly used following gastric bypass or bariatric surgery and other types of major surgery when a patient is temporarily at risk for DVT and traditional anticoagulation may cause serious bleeding.