People who’ve had issues with blood clots, especially problems such as deep vein thrombosis, DVT, or pulmonary embolisms, may be good candidates for an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter.
The IVC filter was designed to stop blood clots before they travel to the heart or lungs, which could be fatal.
Where is the Filter Placed?
The filter is inserted into the inferior vena cava, which is the largest vein running through the body. It runs from the pelvic cavity up through the abdomen and along the right side of the spine. It then connects with the right atrium of the heart on the posterior, or back, side.
It provides a way for de-oxygenated blood to move from extremities in the lower parts of the body to the heart and lungs.
The IVC filter is placed below the kidneys in the IVC. The filter was created to trap blood clots breaking away from the lower extremities, especially the deep veins of the legs, and moving to the heart and lungs. The filter helps prevent a pulmonary embolism, or PE, which is when a blood clot blocks the artery carrying blood from the heart into the lungs.
PEs can cause breathing difficulties, chest pains and they can be fatal. The filter allows blood to continue to flow around trapped blood clots and, over time, anticoagulants in blood will break down the clot.
Who Should have the IVC Filter?
Implantation of the device is usually recommended for patients who have problems with DVTs or PEs despite being on anticoagulants. Patients at risk for developing PEs, but who cannot use anticoagulants, those who have bleeding complications due to anticoagulants and those with clots in the IVC or the iliac veins.
How is it Implanted?
The IVC filter is inserted in a blood vein, usually the femoral vein in the groin or the internal jugular vein, located in the neck. Using a catheter, the device is threaded through the vein until it is placed in position. Then the IVC filter is pushed through the catheter and inserted in the proper place.
Since it is a surgery, there are some risks, but most people resume their normal activities within a day to two.
While the IVC filter has worked well for many people, there have been serious complications for others. More on that here.
If it is recommended for you, discuss the side effects with your doctor before having it implanted.