IVC filters are tiny metal “cage-like” devices which are intended to prevent blood clots from traveling from the legs to the lungs or heart. The filter is implanted in the inferior vena cava—the largest vein which returns blood from the lower body to the heart. Prior to making the decision to implant an IVC filter, the doctor will first determine whether the patient could potentially be given a blood-thinning drug which will dissolve blood clots. There are cases, however, when a blood-thinning drug won’t work, either because the patient does not tolerate the drug, or the patient has suffered a serious trauma.
Retrievable IVC Filters are Not Being Removed
While the IVC filter is supposed to catch a blood clot before it reaches the heart or lungs, in some cases—particularly when an IVC filter is not removed in a timely fashion—it can cause serious issues of its own. In fact, the lack of retrieval in IVC filters appears to be a major contributor to adverse health issues associated with the filter. Only about a third of all retrievable filters are actually removed. One study found that about 40 percent of IVC filters which are left in for five years or more may experience filter fracture, and subsequent filter migration.
Complications Associated with IVC Filters
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine pointed to a relative lack of evidence regarding the benefits of IVC filters, as well as the potential harm associated with the filters. The charts of 952 patients who were implanted with a retrievable IVC filter were reviewed, with the following results:
- Ten of the 952 patients experienced serious IVC filter complications, including filter fracture, IVC perforation, IVC filter migration and embolization.
- 2.5 percent of the patients experienced a pulmonary embolism.
- Only about 8.5 percent of the IVC filters were removed from patients.
- About 8 percent of those patients with an IVC filter experienced deep vein thrombosis.
Life-Threatening Symptoms Not All That Uncommon Among IVC Filter Recipients
Recent findings indicated the risk of an IVC filter experiencing a fracture is extremely high—in a study done at the York Hospital in Pennsylvania, among 80 patients implanted with a retrievable IVC filter, 43 percent suffered “life-threatening symptoms.” Sixteen percent of those patients experienced at least one fractured IVC filter strut, and among those with a fractured strut, the broken strut entered the heart in nine patients.
Heart, Lung and Kidney Damage Resulting from an IVC Filter
There are many types of adverse medical issues you could potentially experience from implantation of your IVC filter. As an example, perhaps you have been diagnosed with cardiac tamponade—excess fluid around your heart which could be the result of your retrievable IVC filter. In some instances, the pericardial sac (the membrane surrounding the heart) may be perforated by an IVC filter, which, in turn, can lead to cardiac tamponade. If not corrected, you could suffer organ failure, shock, or even death. You may also have suffered lung or kidney damage when your IVC filter migrated to one of those organs, then perforated that organ. While there are a number of IVC filter brands on the market, the Bard and Cook brands appear to have had the largest number of problems—as many as 16 percent of patients with one of these IVC filters experienced detrimental, painful or fatal side effects.
If you or a loved one has experienced a problem with a retrievable IVC filter, it could be very beneficial to speak to an experienced IVC filter injury attorney. A well-qualified IVC Filter Injury attorney should be able to answer your questions regarding your medical issues related to the IVC filter, and can help you to make sure your rights are properly protected.