Retrievable inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are medical devices that are designed and prescribed for patients who have a known risk of blood clotting.
An inferior vena cava (IVC) filter is a small device with a cone shape that is inserted into the inferior vena cava (the main blood vessel that returns blood from the lower part of the body to the heart) in order to prevent blood clots from reaching the heart and lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.
More: IVC Filter FAQs
The Purpose of IVC Filters
IVC filters are implanted in patients after major surgeries or serious accidents, when there is an increased risk of blood clots. When a person is at a risk for blood clots, doctors will try anticoagulants – a class of medicine used to stop the blood from clotting – to prevent an occurrence; sometimes, though, due to risks associated with anticoagulants and uncontrolled bleeds, doctors turn to IVC filters as an alternative. Some IVC filters are permanent, while others are implanted temporarily.
IVC Filter Complications and Health Risks
Serious complications might arise from the use of these devices. Furthermore, there has been great concern not just regarding the health risks of IVC filters, but also from doctors’ misuse of these devices and the potentially disastrous consequences for patients.
The FDA has noted many complications that have resulted from the use of IVC filters, including:
- Device Migration – Movement of the IVC filter to another area of the body
- Filter Fracture
- Embolization – Movement of the entire filter or fracture fragments to the heart or lungs
- Perforation of the IVC
- Difficulty Removing IVC Filter
Problems Removing IVC Filters
The last item on the list above – difficulty removing the IVC filter – has caused a stir in the medical community, among patients and in the press. Once these IVC filters are used, removing the devices can be challenging for doctors. Even more alarming is the fact that a vast majority of retrievable IVC filters, which should be removed after they are no longer needed, are left in place, creating increased health risks for patients.
The FDA suggests that medical professionals remove these devices as soon as they are no longer needed. Yet, a review published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2013 found that only 8.5 percent of retrievable IVC filters were successfully removed.
IVC Filters Prone to Failure
Some IVC filters have been more likely to cause health complications in patients, ranging from perforations of the vena cava wall to device fractures. The following filters have been shown to cause these types of complications:
- Bard’s Recover
- Bard’s G2
- Bard’s G2 Express
- Cook’s Gunther Tulip
- Cook’s Celect
Patients are understandably concerned about the complications that arise from the use of IVC filters. It is up to medical professionals to be discerning about placing these devices in their patients, vigilant about removing them after they are no longer needed and upfront with patients about the risks that they face. IVC filters should be used only if other methods of blood clot prevention are not possible.
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury due to improper use of an IVC filter, or if an IVC filter caused an injury or fatality, you might be able to pursue legal action for the damages you have suffered. To get a legal evaluation of your case, contact the attorneys of Pogust Braslow & Millrood for a consultation.