Perhaps you have had an IVC filter implanted in your body because your doctor believed you were at risk for a pulmonary embolism. Most of the IVC filters (a tiny metal cage with very thin “spider” legs) placed in patients are retrievable IVC filters—yet it is estimated that less than a third of these filters are actually ever removed.
This lack of IVC filter removal, after the risk of a pulmonary embolism has passed, can cause a number of serious, even fatal, health issues. The IVC filter is designed to “catch” a blood clot which can form in the legs and travel, via the large vena cava vein, to the heart or lungs.
While blood-thinning drugs are the first choice for those who are at risk for a blood clot, there are patients for whom blood-thinning drugs are either ineffective, or not an option. Other times when an IVC filter may be used include:
- A patient who is immobile;
- A patient who has been involved in an auto accident;
- A patient who is undergoing dialysis treatment;
- A patient who is being treated for a stabbing or gunshot injury;
- A patient who is undergoing emergency or voluntary surgical procedures;
- A patient who has suffered a serious fall;
- A patient who has a cancer diagnosis, or is undergoing cancer treatment;
- A patient with a spinal cord injury, or
- A woman who has just had a baby.
The FDA issued safety communications in 2010 and again, in 2014, which warned doctors and patients about potential problems associated with IVC filters, including occlusion, lower limb deep vein thrombosis, IVC perforation, filter fragments traveling to the heart or lungs, device migration and difficulty removing the device.
Further, the FDA recommended that retrievable IVC filters be removed between the 29th and 54th day after implantation to minimize the risks. A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, found that when retrievable IVC filters were not removed in a timely fashion, the patients experienced significantly higher complication rates than patients implanted with permanent filters.
Can an IVC Filter Cause a Heart Attack, Tamponade or Other Cardiac Events? A 2009 report from Michigan’s William Beaumont Hospital, detailed the case of a 54-year-old man whose retrievable IVC filter migrated from below his kidneys to his heart, eventually entering the heart’s right ventricle. The patient suffered ventricular tachycardia (an abnormally rapid heart rate) and was diagnosed with myocardial infarction, which is a less severe form of a heart attack.
The doctors eventually determined that the IVC filter struts had become intertwined with the man’s heart-valve tissues, and open-heart surgery was performed to remove the filter. Medical publications for a ten-year period between 1998 and 2008 showed patients whose IVC filter had migrated could experience chest pains, heart palpitations, fainting and abnormal heart rhythms. Doctors considered these patients with a migrated IVC filter to be at a very high risk for serious cardiac-related complications such as ventricular arrhythmia, cardiac tamponade, and heart attack.
If you or a loved one has suffered an adverse cardiac event as a result of an IVC filter, it could be extremely helpful to contact an experienced IVC filter attorney who can explain your options, and who will ensure your rights are properly protected.