For trauma patients and morbidly obese patients undergoing surgery, preventing thrombosis-related events, such as strokes, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs), and pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lungs) is absolutely essential. When a patient can't take anticoagulants, or blood-thinning medications haven't worked well previously, doctors achieve the goal of blood clot prevention with the help of a small, implantable metal device known as an IVC filter.
An IVC filter is tiny cage made up of spider-like wire “legs.” Doctors insert the filter into the neck or groin laparoscopically, and thread it into the inferior vena cava. As the largest vein in the body, the inferior vena cava has a big job: transporting deoxygenated blood from the lower and middle parts of the body to the right atrium of the heart. Once inserted, the IVC filter has an equally big job: catching any blood clots on their way to other parts of the body.
However, when left in place too long, IVC filters can break apart, causing the device's wires to migrate to other parts of the body, resulting in a wide range of undesirable side effects and symptoms. Read on to learn more about fracturing IVC filters and what you can do if you were injured by a broken IVC filter.
IVC Filter Fractures
When an IVC filter breaks apart or becomes dislodged, the pieces or the filter itself can travel to other parts of the body—such as the heart, brain, or other parts of the inferior vena cava—wreaking havoc along the way. The broken pieces can perforate organs, cause infection or swelling, or even become clogged with blood clots.
Permanent vs. Retrievable IVC Filters
There are two types of IVC filters available to U.S. patients and their doctors: permanent and retrievable. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1970s, permanent IVC filters feature a strong, durable design that can be left in the body, even after the threat of thrombosis-related events have passed. Retrievable IVC filters were approved in the 1990s and feature a flexible design that's only suitable for temporary use.
However, many doctors leave retrievable IVC filters in their patients permanently. In response to reports of adverse events, the FDA warned that the devices can become dangerous when left in place longer than a month.
Other IVC Filter Complications
Breakage is one of the most concerning complications associated with IVC filters, but it's not the only side effect patients may face if their retrievable IVC filters are left in place for too long. Other side effects and complications associated with IVC filters include:
- Air embolisms
- Narrowing or obstruction of the inferior vena cava, resulting in slower blood flow
- Cardiac tamponade (excess fluid around the heart the slows pumping)
- Hemorrhagic pericardial effusion (excess fluid around the heart)
- Bleeding or bruising at insertion site
Even if your doctor decides to take out your retrievable IVC filter, you may not be in the clear. Surgical risks include the perforation of blood vessels, large clots, and a long, and difficult surgical procedure that can result in scaring.
Are You Considering an IVC Filter Lawsuit?
Even though the FDA has clearly stated that retrievable IVC filters should be removed approximately 30 days—and absolutely no longer than 54 days—after implantation, many doctors still don't remove IVC filters in a timely fashion, if at all. The research is clear: After four weeks, the risks associated with IVC filters begin to outweigh the benefits. If your retrievable IVC filter broke apart, causing a number of serious health problems, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation from the device's manufacturer.
At McGartland Law, our team of skilled attorneys has 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases just like yours. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your potential IVC filter lawsuit.