Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are supposed to trap blood clots from the legs and lower body and prevent them from entering the heart and lungs and causing a lethal pulmonary embolism. IVC filters carry the risk of a number of complications, some of which are apparent immediately while others develop over time. If you develop a complication after an IVC filter implantation, seek immediate medical attention.
Procedural Complications of IVC Filters
Multiple things can go wrong during the surgical procedure to implant an IVC filter.
Venous Access Site
Complications concerning the location where the surgeon accesses the vein used to implant the filter can include access site bleeding, infection, hematoma, and accidental arterial puncture. The patient might notice signs and symptoms like these after the procedure:
- Redness, swelling, or tenderness at the incision area
- Other symptoms of infection
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
Malposition or Defective Deployment of the IVC Filter
If the surgeon places the filter in the wrong position, it could migrate to another part of the body. When an IVC filter migrates from its intended placement, the patient can feel pain or experience internal bleeding from perforated organs or other tissue.
A mispositioned filter may fail to perform its function of preventing blood clots from traveling to the heart and lungs. The first sign of IVC filter malposition-related failure to function correctly is an embolism.
Similarly, if the filter does not open or expand correctly once deployed, the filter could migrate or fail to work efficiently. These symptoms are the same as for malposition.
Delayed Problems with IVC Filters
Over time, complications can develop with IVC filters.
If an IVC filter migrates or moves from its original location, it can travel through the blood vessel to the heart or to the pulmonary outflow tract. The patient might feel pain in the new location of the filter or experience internal bleeding or unusual bruising.
Depending on the new location of the filter, a surgeon might be able to remove the migrated device by using a percutaneous (through the skin) retrieval device. If the IVC filter traveled to the right ventricle, heart valves, or pulmonary outflow tract, it often requires surgery to remove the filter.
For example, a 48-year-old patient complained of chest pain and heart palpitations a year after receiving an IVC filter. He had the original operation to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A chest x-ray showed that the device had migrated to the thorax and was in the right heart, over the tricuspid valve. The patient had to undergo open heart surgery to remove the IVC filter.
Researchers say that IVC filters increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). One study showed that 40 percent of patients who did not have evidence of DVT before getting an IVC filter implanted developed DVT after the implantation.
The Mayo Clinic lists the signs of DVT as:
- Leg pain
- Swelling of the legs
- Cramping or soreness in the calf or elsewhere in the leg
- The leg might feel warm to touch
- Discolored or red skin on the leg
The filter device can fracture, breaking into multiple pieces. These pieces can break off and travel through the blood vessel into the heart, with life-threatening consequences. Pain is a primary symptom of this complication.
Sometimes a component of an IVC filter—a strut—will penetrate the wall of the IVC. Researchers report that this complication happens in 40 to 95 percent of people with IVC filters. Filter struts can cause aortic penetration, ureteral perforation, duodenal penetration, aortic pseudoaneurysm, laceration of lumbar vessels, significant bleeding, and erosion of the IVC. Pain, unusual bleeding, and bruising are the most frequent signs of IVC perforation.
Studies reveal that about five percent of people who have IVC filter implantation later experience a pulmonary embolism, and most of those are fatal. The symptoms of pulmonary embolism are:
- Chest pain
- Discomfort that gets worse when you cough or take a deep breath
- Rapid pulse
- Coughing up blood
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
The filter device itself can develop infections. An infection in the bloodstream can be lethal. Bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) itself usually does not come with visible signs. However, once the bacteremia develops into sepsis or septic shock the patient can exhibit symptoms like:
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting
If you or a loved one are presenting any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
Getting Help for a Problem with an IVC Filter
Because the potential outcomes are so dire, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room if you experience any of the above symptoms after the implantation of an IVC filter. After dealing with the medical crisis, you might want to talk with an IVC filter lawsuit lawyer to see if you could be eligible for compensation.
Call Tosi & Rose today at 888-311-8292 to set up a free consultation. There is no obligation.