Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Placement

What is an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placement?

An inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placement is an interventional radiology procedure to place a filter in the inferior vena cava, the large vein in the abdomen that returns blood from the lower body to the heart.

Why do you need an IVC filter placement?

In a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that develop in the veins of the leg or pelvis occasionally break up and large pieces of the clot can travel to the lungs.

The procedure uses an IVC filter to trap large clot fragments and prevents them from traveling through the vena cava vein to the heart and lungs, where they could cause severe complications or even death.

Who should not undergo an IVC filter placement?

This procedure is not advisable for pregnant women.

What are the risks and complications of an IVC filter placement?

This interventional procedure is associated with risks such as:

  • Pain or discomfort at the catheter insertion site
  • Bleeding at the site
  • Injury to a blood vessel
  • Infection of the blood stream

Possible complications

Some possible complications of the procedure are:

  • The IVC may become blocked after the placement of the filter. As blockage of the IVC is a gradual process, it usually will not cause any symptoms. You will develop veins around the blocked area and these veins will allow blood flow from your lower body. However, this results in the risk of a clot passing through these veins, bypassing the filter, and reaching your lungs.
  • The filter may shift in position after placement. If your femoral vein (located in your groin) was used for the procedure, there is the possibility that the vein may become blocked. This may result in leg swelling and may require intravenous blood thinners or the use of blood clot dissolving drugs given into the IVC.
  • The possibility of experiencing a recurrent pulmonary embolism due to clot material passing through the small openings in the filter.

Other associated risks include:

  • An allergic reaction to the X-ray contrast material
  • Reduced kidney function
  • Aspiration (inhaling food or liquid into your lungs) or respiratory depression due to the medications used for conscious sedation

There may also be other unpredictable risks in this procedure resulting in death.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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