What is Inferior Vena Cava Filter Placement and Removal?
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 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 or even death.
Until recently, IVC filters were available only as permanently implanted devices. Newer filters, called retrievable filters, may be left in place permanently or have the option to be removed from the blood vessel later. This removal may be performed when the risk of clot traveling to the lung has passed. Removal of an IVC filter eliminates any long term risks of having the filter in place. It does not address the cause of the deep vein thrombosis or coagulation. Your referring physician will determine if blood thinners are still necessary.
What are some common uses of the procedure?
Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are placed in patients who have a history of or are at risk of developing blood clots in the legs and cannot be treated with blood thinners, including patients:
- diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that is worsening while on blood thinners.
- with pulmonary embolus or a history of having a pulmonary embolus
- who are trauma victims and cannot be given blood thinners
- who have DVT and recently had surgery or delivered a baby, preventing use of blood thinners
Who should have their IVC filter removed?
IVC filters are made to be permanent; however, they can cause problems after many years. The removal of the IVC filter is generally a quick outpatient procedure performed through a tiny hole in the vein of the neck. Typically, patients are lightly sedated and can go home 1-2 hours after the removal.
We recommend that all patients be evaluated by an Interventional Radiologist or Hematologist (doctor specializing in blood disorders) to determine if the IVC filter should be removed. Patients that are still recovering from major surgery or that have had a pulmonary embolus may need to keep the filter in place. Generally, our recommendation is that a filter be removed if:
- the patient has never had a pulmonary embolus
- the patient had 1-2 episodes of DVT, especially if the DVT was after trauma or surgery
- the patient has undergone blood thinning therapy for at least 8 weeks
- the patient has no scheduled major surgery in the upcoming month