An IVC filter is a medical device which is placed within the IVC (Inferior vena cava), with the purpose of “catching” blood clots to prevent them from traveling through your leg veins and into your lungs.
There are many indications for an IVC filter. Most often they are needed when a blood clot in the legs is present and there is a contraindication to blood thinning medication (recent bleeding, surgery, etc.). Occasionally they are placed when a blood clot develops, despite being on blood thinning medication. There may also be other reasons to have an IVC filter placed more unique to your situation, which can be discussed with your doctor.
Prior to the start of the procedure you may be given some medications to help relax you. A local numbing medication is also injected at the determined access site, usually the neck or groin. During this portion of the procedure you will feel a small poke, followed by a burning sensation, which should dissipate in about 5-10 seconds. After this, access will be obtained into the predetermined vein, under a combination of ultrasound and fluoroscopic guidance. A wire will be passed through the access site. This wire will allow passage and exchange of multiple sheaths, catheters, and medical instruments into the venous system. Prior to deployment of the IVC filter a venogram may be completed to assess anatomy and determine appropriate positioning. The IVC filter deployment system will then be passed through a sheath into the appropriate location and deployed under fluoroscopic guidance to ensure appropriate positioning. Once this is complete, all instruments will be removed and manual pressure will be applied to the venous access site until hemostasis is achieved. A dressing will then be applied.
A doctor who is specialized in interventional radiology will place the filter using the X-ray and ultrasound to guide them.
Local anesthetic (Lidocaine) will be used to numb the skin at the access site. This causes a “burning” sensation which subsides in approximately 5-10 seconds. You may experience some pressure during the procedure; however, this is generally not regarded as painful. Overall, patient tolerate the procedure very well.
Overall complication rate with IVC filter placement is very low, less than 1%. Some of the complications include bleeding, infection, filter fracture/migration, and IVC penetration.
IVC filter placement is usually very well tolerated. Patients are monitored for one hour after the completion of the procedure to assess for and immediate complications. The access site in the neck or groin may be a little sore, but soreness should subside.
IVC filters can remain in place as long as needed, or may be removed if there is no longer a need for them.