IVC filters are tiny implantable medical devices designed to prevent thrombosis-related health conditions in trauma patients or obese surgical patients such as:
- Blood clots
- Pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lungs)
- Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs)
These devices are an alternative anti-clotting treatment for patients who can't take an anticoagulant or haven't had success with traditional blood-thinning medications.
IVC filters are widely used in the United States. Doctors implant as many as 250,000 of the devices in patients each year. Yet despite their popularity, IVC filters are hugely controversial. The devices have been linked to a variety of serious side effects and complications. Read on to learn more about IVC filters and what to do if you were injured.
How Do IVC Filters Work?
IVC filters are named after the largest vein in the body, the inferior vena cava, which is tasked with carrying deoxygenated blood from the lower body and middle torso into the heart's right atrium. To prevent blood clots from forming and traveling to the heart or lungs, doctors laparoscopically insert a tiny, metal, cage-like device surrounded by “feelers” into the neck or groin, and then thread it into the inferior vena cava. Once positioned, the IVC filter's tiny metal feelers catch any blood clots, preventing them from reaching the brain and causing a stroke, or reaching the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism.
What's the Difference Between Permanent and Retrievable IVC Filters?
There are two types of IVC filters used in the United States: permanent and retrievable. As the name suggests, permanent IVC filters are designed to provide long-term protection against blood clots, while retrievable IVC filters are designed to provide short-term protection and be removed when the threat of blood clots has passed.
However, even retrievable IVC filters are rarely removed, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines that state the devices become a health hazard if left in place longer than four weeks. If left in the body for too long, the risks associated with the device tends to outweigh the benefits, according to the FDA.
Side Effects and Complications Associated With IVC Filters
Most of the side effects and complications associated with IVC filters can be grouped by when they occur: during the implantation procedure, while the filter is in the body, or during the retrieval procedure.
Side effects and complications that can occur during insertion includes:
- Bleeding or bruising at the surgical access site
- Blood vessel puncture
- Incorrect placement and positioning of the device
However, it's the side effects and complications that can occur while the device is in the body that are most worrisome. These side effects can include:
- IVC filter migration—the device may migrate to the heart, other vital organs, or another part of the inferior vena cava
- Blood clots in the legs, such as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT
- Perforated organs, such as the heart, lungs or inferior vena cava
- Filter fracture
- Swollen limbs
- Infection at the insertion site
- Filter-clogging blood clots
- Obstruction of the inferior vena cava, resulting in slower blood flow
- Air embolisms
- Excess fluid around the heart, or hemorrhagic pericardial effusion
Additionally, in the rare case that a doctor actually attempts to remove a retrievable IVC filter, patients may face a long and difficult surgery that perforates blood vessels or leaves scars. In some cases, the doctor may not even be able to remove the retrievable IVC.
Are You Considering an IVC Filter Lawsuit?
If you experienced serious side effects or complications after your doctor implanted, but failed to remove, an IVC filter device, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries from the device's manufacturer. Don't let the opportunity to pursue a legal remedy pass you by. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation appointment to discuss your potential IVC filter case.