Inferior Vena Cava Filters have recently been elevated to the national healthcare conscious. They have been highlighted for their potential lifesaving properties as well as their complications (both long term and short term). Currently, IVC filters are placed following careful consideration and consultation between physicians. Today's discussion will focus on IVC filters and recommendations for removal.
What is an IVC filter?
An inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter) is a small, metallic cone-shaped device that is implanted in the inferior vena cava (the main vein in the belly) just below the kidneys. The filter is designed to capture any blood clots that have broken loose from one of the deep veins in the legs on its way to the heart and lungs. Indications for placement are numerous and the decision to place an IVC filter is taken only when necessary.
I've heard many bad things about filters. What does VIP recommend?
You may have heard about the potential complications with IVC filters. Even though the complication rate is low, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Society of Interventional Radiology and the American College of Radiology recommend removing the IVC filter as soon as the protection is no longer needed or within 3-6 months from placement of the IVC filter. The manufacturers of the IVC filters also recommend early removal. The Physicians at VIP work closely with your personal physician to decide the safest and earliest time to remove the IVC filters.
Can the filter be removed?
Almost all IVC filters placed now are retrievable. In other words, they can be placed just long enough for your protection and removed once it is no longer needed.
What happens if I leave it in?
In the event the IVC filter remains in your body, then it will offer protection from large blood clots that may dislodge and travel towards your heart and lungs. However, you may need to be on long-term blood thinning medication to prevent the IVC filter from becoming clotted.
My brother had a DVT, but never got a filter. Why is that?
The indications for IVC filters may not necessarily apply to all patients. In some cases, the DVT may be very small and can be treated with blood thinning medications only.