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Inferior Vena Cava Filters

Placement of an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter may be a required for a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Vena cava filters may be temporary or permanent; the decision is based on an individualized basis. These filters are reserved for patients who are unable to take blood-thinning medications or for those at high risk for developing recurrent DVT with pulmonary embolism (PE).

The inferior vena cava is a large vein in your abdomen that transports blood back to your heart from the lower extremities. IVC filters are small umbrella-shaped wire devices placed in the inferior vena cava. The filters are designed to trap blood clots from travelling from your legs to the lungs.

IVC Filter Procedure

The procedure is done using x-ray in the operating room or in the interventional radiology suite. A catheter (tube) is placed from the groin or the neck in the IVC and contrast is used to image the IVC. Through this catheter the filter is placed in the IVC under x-ray guidance.

Rare complications include bleeding from the puncture site, reaction to contrast dye, infection at puncture site, small risk of pulmonary emboli.

IVC Filter

What to Expect

After the procedure your vital signs and the puncture site will be monitored for a few hours. You can go home the same day with instructions on your blood thinners.

Minimal bruising and discomfort may exist in the puncture site. Whether your surgeon has placed a temporary or permanent IVC filter, it is important that you follow up routinely.

Removal of IVC filter:

In some situation it may be recommend that the filter be removed. The filter may be removed if you are able to take blood-thinning medications or if you are no longer considered at high risk of PE.

Sometimes, your team will decide to leave the filter in permanently if you are unable to take blood thinners or the filter has been in a long time.

Removing a vena cava filter is usually a simple procedure and is done as an outpatient procedure. IVC filters are removed through a vein in the neck. A small catheter (tube) is placed and with guidance of contrast dye and x-ray images, the filter is collapsed inside the catheter and removed through the same puncture hole. Afterwards, the catheter is removed and a pressure dressing will be applied to the puncture site at the end of the procedure. The procedure itself usually takes less than an hour.

Rare complications include bleeding from puncture site, reaction to contrast dye, infection at puncture site, small risk of pulmonary emboli. Sometimes, the filter is embedded inside the vein wall and cannot be removed.