Yes, an Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) filter can get clogged with a blood clot. The clot can cause painful swelling in your legs and other extremities. Because the clot slows the circulation of blood throughout your body, it impairs your heart's ability to pump blood out of your legs efficiently. This defect is just one of many associated with IVC filters, some of which result in the patient's death.
A Refresher in Why You Have an IVC Filter
You most likely received an IVC filter because you carry a risk of blood clots traveling to your lungs, and you either cannot take anticoagulant drugs, or the drugs simply were not working quickly enough to do the job.
A blood clot that forms in a deep vein in your body, typically in the lower leg or thigh, is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This clot can weaken or create leaks in the valves that push blood up to your heart. The blood begins to pool in your legs. If you are sedentary for a significant period of time, your muscles will not contract to push blood up the veins to your heart, increasing the chance that the blood will clot.
A DVT creates pain and swelling in your leg, and if it breaks free, it can attach to a lung vessel, block it, and cause a pulmonary embolism. This condition can kill you.
Your doctor inserted an IVC filter with the intention of preventing any clots from traveling to your lungs and heart.
How an IVC Filter Works
The IVC filter is a cage-like device that Harvard Health Letter describes as “like an “umbrella without the cloth—just the ribs.” The tiny filter is embedded in the tip of the catheter that your doctor inserts into a vein in your leg or neck, and then into the inferior vena cava, a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from your legs into your heart.Blood flows past the filter, but clots are caught in the filter, so they are unable to travel to your heart and lungs.
This IVC filter placement will not resolve the root problems that are promoting your risk for a blood clot. It serves as a stopgap to reduce the risk while it still exists, and when blood thinners cannot be used.
Removing Your IVC Filter
Using another procedure, your doctor can remove a retrievable IVC filter if you can take anticoagulants or if the risk of blood clots moving to your lungs is no longer a concern. To remove the IVC filter, the doctor inserts a snare (a wire loop) into your neck vein and uses the snare to grab the hook at the end of the filter. Your physician will use an X-ray to guide them in the procedure.
Doctors perform the IVC filter retrieval as an outpatient service. Although generally regarded as safe, the procedure does introduce the risks of bleeding, clotting, and other complications if the filter became dislodged and traveled to another location in your body.
Simply put, if you do not need an IVC Filter in your body, you do not want it there. These medical devices introduce several risks, including that of a defective IVC filter:
- becoming clogged a blood clot
- breaking apart and tearing your vein
- traveling into your heart or lungs, causing multiple adverse effects
Growing Awareness of IVC Filters Clogging and Device Defects
Although developed in the 1960s, IVC filters grew in popularity in the early 2000s, when design modifications made them easier to insert and retrieve. Doctors increasingly recommended them for patients who needed temporary protection from blood clots for a few weeks or months but were not in a position to use blood thinners.
One example of this scenario is immediately following a surgery, especially brain surgery, where blood thinners could cause excessive bleeding that would be highly dangerous to the patient.
The problems with IVC filters which can get clogged arise due to defective devices that either break apart or migrate or that, over time, collect so many blood clots that they prevent blood from flowing through the filters.
These risks caught the ear of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), prompting the agency to issue a safety recommendation in 2010 and a reminder in 2014 that IVC filters that are inserted for the purpose of a temporary protection against pulmonary embolism should be removed immediately after the risk no longer exists.
“The optimal window for removing a filter is usually several months,” reported Dr. Piotr Sobieszczyk, an interventional cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, in an interview with the Harvard letter. “The biggest obstacle is lack of follow-up.” Sobieszczyk emphasizes that IVC filters do not constitute a treatment for DVT. Many hospitals acknowledge the great risks of a DVT filter, he says, by implementing automated reminders intended to nudge doctors to bring their patients back in for DVT filter retrieval.
Tosi & Rose Mass Tort Lawyers Can Represent You in an IVC Filter Lawsuit
Tosi & Rose is a mass-tort law firm that is currently accepting cases regarding injuries or death stemming from defective IDV filters that can get clogged. Call us today at 888-311-8292 for a free, no-obligation consultation.