What you need to know about IVC filters

Learn the risks and benefits of filters designed to catch dangerous blood clots

Doctor holding IVC filterMore adults than ever have inferior vena cava filters, cage-like devices implanted in their chest to protect them from stroke or deadly blood clots. News reports that questioned the safety of IVC filters made by CR Bard may have patients wondering: what kind of IVC filter they have, and if, and when, it should be removed.

Vein specialists at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center weigh in on the emerging concerns about IVC filters.

How IVC filters work

IVC filters are inserted into the inferior vena cava to capture large blood clots and prevent them from reaching the lungs. The inferior vena cava is the main vessel that returns blood from the lower body back to the heart and lungs. Doctors may recommend an IVC filter if they’re worried about the risk of dangerous blood clots among their patients with risk factors, such as:

  • History of deep vein thrombosis
  • History of surgery or certain bone fractures
  • Certain diseases or conditions such as hemorrhagic stroke, profound paralysis or immobility, right heart failure or severe pulmonary hypertension

What patients need to know

There are several manufacturers of IVC filters and all of the devices go through rigorous testing before being approved for use.

While all IVC filters have risks associated with use, some Bard IVC filter models reportedly have a higher than usual risk for fracture (a piece of the IVC filter breaks off), migration (when the IVC filter, or a piece of it, moves from where it was placed), or other complications. Safety questions have surfaced about older models of Bard IVC filter, such as the Recovery model, which has not been used at the University of Michigan Health System for more than seven years and was minimally used then.

The more recent Bard model, the Denali, is structurally different from prior models. At this time, the Denali has not been associated with the complications that the older models reportedly have. The Denali has not been used by UMHS since March 2015.

What doctors need to know

Like any medical intervention, there are risks and benefits that must be considered when deciding whether an IVC filter should be placed and when an IVC filter should be removed.

Many IVC filters are potentially removable, once the patient’s risk of developing blood clots is reduced or the patient’s risk can instead be managed with blood-thinning medications.

Physicians and clinicians responsible for the ongoing care of patients with IVC filters, including interventional radiologists, interventional cardiologists, vascular surgeons, emergency room physicians, bariatric surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and primary care physicians, are urged to actively follow patients with the goal of removing the filter when medically appropriate.

Take the next step

Whether you have an IVC filter made by Bard or any other manufacturer, specialists in the U-M Venous Health Program are available to discuss its use with you and/or your doctor. Contact us at 888-M-Venous (888-683-6687) to schedule an appointment.

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.