Blood Clots and IVC Filters

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Blood Clots and IVC Filters
12.22.2015 News

One of the key ways your body's immune system works to stave off infection is through clotting.  When the skin is cut and bleeding, the blood clots seal the wound and prevent possible infection. That makes the blood's clotting function very important for keeping people alive and healthy. However, when a blood clot forms in the wrong place, that condition can become extremely dangerous, by preventing blood from flowing freely through the body. When the blood clots inside the deep veins of the body, that is called "Deep Vein Thrombosis," or DVT, and it can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, this condition affects about one out of every 1,000 adults in the United States.

Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT

In most cases, DVT happens in the legs, which can result in redness, swelling, significant pain, and discomfort. It is caused by one or more of a number of factors, including low blood flow, changes in the vein wall, or some other condition that results in the blood clotting too often. In addition to the elderly, pregnant women often suffer from DVT because pregnancy sometimes results in hypercoagulability. Other factors, including obesity, genetics, and certain types of drugs, increase the risk of developing DVT.

There are a number of treatments for DVT, including a variety of anticoagulant medications, which can be used for a few months to prevent future clots.  Unfortunately, some patients fail to respond to anticoagulant medications and others end up developing other conditions, like pulmonary embolisms. Because of this, an alternative to these medications became necessary and that's why the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter was developed.

What Is An IVC Filter And How Is It Used To Prevent Blood Clots?

An IVC filter is a tiny device that is placed into the Inferior Vena Cava, which is the large vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart or lungs. If a clot caused by DVT breaks free and travels through the bloodstream, the IVC filter can catch it and prevent it from traveling and prevent further problems.

Inserting an IVC filter involves a minimally invasive procedure. The physician will make a small incision in the neck or the groin and use a catheter to guide the filter into place in the IVC, while tracking the progress using imaging technology. The incision is so small there is no need for stitches and the entire procedure takes roughly an hour.

In most cases, the IVC filter is designed to be removed after a short period of time and recent warnings have made that something of a directive. And that is the heart of the problems with IVC filters. In many cases, they stay in the vein for too long and things happen.

Among the most common risk factors with regard to IVC filters that are left in place for too long include the following:

  • IVC filters may move, migrate, or change position and end up in a place in the body where it's not supposed to be, thus potential damage to internal organs.
  • A filter may perforate or erode into other veins, potentially causing damage to them.
  • Parts of the filter can break off, travel through the bloodstream and eventually damage the heart or lungs.
  • The filter can be clogged with clots. Which could impede the flow of blood to the heart.
  • A doctor may be unable to remove the filter.

IVC filters have important medical benefits and can be used to save lives. However, they are used for a specific purpose and once that purpose has been fulfilled, they should be removed to prevent unintentional negative health consequences. IVC Filter Litigation is underway and many of the claims involve defective medical devices designed by Bard.