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Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filters

IVC Patient Image

Definition:

An IVC filter is a small metal device that traps large clot fragments and prevents them from traveling through the large vein in the abdomen to the heart and lungs where they could cause severe complications such as pain, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or even death. IVC filters are most commonly placed by Interventional Radiologist (IR) and can be done safely in an outpatient setting.

Years ago, IVC filters were only available as permanently implanted devices. We now have retrievable IVC filters, which may be left in place permanently or have the option to potentially be removed at a later date.

Common uses of the procedure:

IVC filters are placed in patients who have a history of or are at risk of developing blood clots in the legs, including patients:

  • Diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • With pulmonary embolus (PE)
  • Who are trauma victims
  • Who are immobile
  • Who have recently had surgery or delivered a baby.

IVC filters have a high rate of success in patients who don’t respond to or cannot be given conventional medical therapy, such as blood thinning agents.

Procedure – Placement

A small nick is made at the neck or groin area. Using image guidance, this small nick will allow a catheter (small tube) to advanced to the IVC in the abdomen. The IVC filter is then placed through the catheter and into the vein. Once it is in the correct position, the interventional radiologist will release the filter, allowing it to expand and attach itself to the walls of the blood vessel. The Interventional Radiologist will recommend a follow-up visit after your procedure or treatment is completed.

Procedure – Removal

Removal of an IVC filter may be performed when the risk of clot travelling to the lung has passed. Removal of an IVC filter is similar to placement. A small nick is made in the neck, a special catheter is then inserted into the inferior vena cava (IVC) using image guidance. Removable IVC filters have a small hook or knob at the top that enables the catheter to capture the filter, collapse it, pull it into the catheter, and then withdraw it from the body.