If you suffer a blood clot in your leg or pelvis, pieces of the clot may travel through the body. If they cause a blockage in the lungs (otherwise known as pulmonary embolism1), the side effects can be very serious. Patients suffering a pulmonary embolism may subsequently die. If you are at high risk for a blood clot of this nature, a doctor may recommend you have an inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter), particularly if you cannot take blood-thinning medicines.
How IVC filter placement works
A trained radiologist will oversee the process of fitting a disposable IVC filter. A catheter (very thin tube) will be inserted through a large vein in your neck or groin and will then be moved to the inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava is a large vein in the abdomen, which moves blood from the lower body to the heart. The disposable IVC filter is then placed into the vein, via the catheter. Once the radiologist has placed the IVC filter in the correct position, he or she will release it, allowing it to expand. It will then attach to the walls of the blood vessel. The IVC filter removal procedure is similar, as the device has a hook or knob at one end, which allows the radiologist to remove it from the body.
Risks of IVC filter placement and removal
Like any surgical procedure, there are a number of risks that may occur with the placement of a removable IVC filter. These include:
- Infection, which may require antibiotic treatment
- Allergic reaction to material that the radiologist inserts to aid the procedure
- Damage to the blood vessel
- Injury to a nearby organ, through the vein
There is also a risk of IVC filter migration, which can have serious complications.
The risk of IVC filter migration
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration2 (FDA) issued a safety alert in 2010, outlining the risks of an adverse event due to long-term use of an IVC filter. In the period between 2005 and 2010, the FDA received 921 reports of adverse events associated with IVC filters. The most common adverse event was device migration, in 328 of the total number of events. IVC filter migration3 is a serious complication whereby the device moves from the intended position. When a disposable IVC filter migrates, the patient will require further surgery to remove the device. This can result in more serious symptoms, including ventricular arrhythmia and even death.
Advice for IVC filter patients
Due to the risks of long-term IVC filters, the FDA recommends that physicians and clinicians consider removing the device as soon as it is no longer needed. Some IVC filter patients experience injuries and complications as a result of the device placement. If you or a loved one suffers an injury, contact a trained attorney as soon as possible for further advice. It may be possible to file a class action lawsuit for compensation. IVC filter or IVC filter replacement injuries can lead to high medical costs, lost wages, and considerable pain and suffering. An attorney can help you receive a settlement to cover these costs.