Only a surgeon may remove an IVC filter with a patient under sedation. These medical devices are implanted into a large vein called the inferior vena cava (IVC). They are a temporary or emergency measure to prevent blood clots from reaching the lungs, heart, brain, and other vital organs.
There may be complications when removing an IVC filter. Patients should talk to their doctor about these potential risks.
How an IVC Filter Is Removed
Removing an IVC filter is similar to the implantation process. While the patient is sedated, a small, catheter-based wire loop is inserted into the inferior vena cava. This large vein is in the neck. Using an X-ray or other imaging device, the doctor uses the wire loop, called a snare, to grasp the small hook on the IVC filter. Your doctor then carefully removes the IVC filter from your body.
After a brief post-operative observation, patients can go home and resume normal activities the following day. Patients should have someone drive them home after the procedure because they may be groggy from the anesthesia.
Complications May Occur When an IVC Filter Is Removed
Removing an IVC filter is generally recognized as safe, but some complications may occur, including:
- Additional blood clots (thrombus)
- Other health complications related to the device moving or changing position after the original placement
Sometimes, the doctor may be unable to remove an IVC filter using this snare and hook process. If this happens, there are advanced complex filter removal techniques that can be used.
There have also been cases where doctors are unable to successfully remove the IVC filter in patients. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), doctors were unable to remove IVC filters in approximately 190 of 952 observed patients.
Why IVC Filters Should Be Removed
IVC filters are implanted in patients with pulmonary embolisms (PE) or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) who cannot tolerate the standard anticoagulant treatment (blood thinners). An IVC filter can help prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs, heart, or other vital organ. They can be effective for patients who cannot take anticoagulant drugs or if blood thinners do not work well enough or fast enough.
However, the longer an IVC filter stays in place, the higher the risk that it could break off and cause internal bleeding. There are other risks associated with an IVC filter, such as:
- Device migrating (moving)
- Perforated organs
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Blood clots in abdomen or legs
- Pulmonary embolisms
IVC filters should be removed as soon as the danger of a heart attack or stroke caused by a blood clot has passed.
FDA Warnings About IVC Filters
In August of 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the possibility of IVC filters breaking inside the body. The warning was issued after the FDA received 921 reports of IVC filters breaking, migrating, or causing other complications. The agency recommended that the device should be removed no later than 54 days after it was implanted. Some of these filters were recalled.
Understanding the Risks of Not Treating Pulmonary Embolisms (PE) and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
IVC filters can be risky, but there are inherent risks if pulmonary embolisms (PE) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are untreated. Most patients can tolerate the standard treatment for these conditions, such as taking warfarin and other anticoagulants.
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. A PE is typically caused by a blood clot that travels to the lungs from the deep veins in your legs (DVT). Rarely, a blood clot will travel to the lungs from another part of the body, but it does happen. A pulmonary embolism is life-threatening and requires immediate medical care.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in one of your legs.Certain medical and lifestyle conditions increase your chance of DVT, such as inactivity, obesity, smoking, heart failure, and pregnancy. DVT can be fatal if the blood clot travels to your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.
Make an Informed Decision About IVC Filters
Ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of an IVC filter, including how to remove an IVC filter.
If you or a loved one have experienced complications from this device, you may be entitled to compensation for damages such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses. If you would like to learn more about seeking potential compensation, please call Tosi & Rose at 888-311-8292.