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Treatment / Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Placement or Removal

Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Placement or Removal

The inferior vena cava (IVC) is a large vein in the middle of the abdomen. The IVC returns blood from your lower body to your heart. IVC filters are small wire ‘baskets’ that are typically placed temporarily to prevent large blood clots from reaching your lungs. A blood clot that reaches the lung is called a pulmonary embolism (PE) and can be life-threatening.

Am I a Candidate for an IVC Filter Placement?

When you come in to be treated, your doctor will talk with you about your medical history and perform any necessary diagnostic testing. Once it is determined that you are a good candidate for the procedure, the next step is treatment. IVC filters are used when patients cannot be successfully treated by other methods, including blood thinning medications.

Inferior vena cava filters are commonly placed in patients that have a history or are at risk of developing blood clots in the legs, including patients:

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

What to Expect from the Procedure

When you come in for your IVC filter placement, you will either have local anesthesia with sedation, or general anesthesia – whatever you and your interventional radiologist (IR) have discussed prior to the procedure. Your IR will make a small incision in your groin or neck. Using image guidance and contrast dye a catheter will be passed through the incision into a major blood vessel until it reaches the inferior vena cava. A collapsed IVC filter will be delivered through the catheter to the desired location. Once in place, the filter will be deployed. The catheter will then be removed and pressure will be applied to the site for about 10 minutes to prevent bleeding.

Removal of an IVC filter is possible for about 80% of people. To remove an IVC filter, a special catheter is inserted into a large vein in the neck or groin and advanced to the site of the filter in the vena cava using image guidance. A removable IVC filter has a small hook or knob at one end that enables the catheter to capture the filter and pull it into the catheter and withdraw it from the body.

When a filter can not be removed, it is typically due to the following:

  • It is stuck to the wall of the IVC
  • It is filled with large blood clots
  • You are not getting the right dose of blood thinner

Recovery

Placement/removal of an IVC filter is usually performed as an outpatient procedure typically lasts less than an hour. After the procedure, you will rest in a recovery area for a while before you are sent home. Most patients are able to return to normal activity levels in about 48 hours. Call you doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Fever and chills, which may be signs of infection
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, or bleeding from the site
  • Your legs become cold and blue

Risks and Complications from the Procedure

IVC filter placement is a very safe procedure. Major complications occur in less than 1% of patients and are often a result of the filter filling with blood clots, moving (migrating), or breaking. The most common problem is minor bleeding at the site.

Inferior vena cava filters have a high rate of success in protecting lungs from serious pulmonary embolus in patients who have failed conventional medical therapy or cannot be given conventional medical therapy.

Your doctor will determine if you are a candidate for an IVC filter. But if you are at risk of developing blood clots in the legs, an IVC filter may be an option. Call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule an appointment for a consultation.

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