Inferior vena cava filters, or IVC filters, whether they are permanent or retrievable types, are designed to be left in the body for a long time. They are made from stainless steel or a metal alloy and are designed to withstand years of placement within a human body.
“Occasionally, though, those filters can have problems,” said Dr. Brian Strife, at VCU Health’s Baird Vascular Institute. “The three main problems we see are the filter itself developing blood clots and blocking the main vein, the IVC, which can result in swelling and extreme pain in the lower extremities. Also, the metal itself in the filter can stress or fatigue, causing the filter to break, and pieces of the filter can migrate into the patient and damage adjacent organs, and very rarely, pieces of the filter can break and go into the heart and lungs.”
These types of issues are extremely uncommon, assures Dr. Strife. “We do know these issues are sometimes a cause of patient concern and anxiety, and we often receive calls from patients asking whether or not their filter needs to be removed to avoid these complications.”
“In 2010, the FDA recommended that physicians who placed these filters and physicians who treated patients with the filters make an attempt to consider filter retrieval when that filter is no longer needed,” Dr. Strife continued. “Sometimes that’s a tough call,” he said, “because we don’t necessarily know which patients are best suited to have an IVC filter in for the rest of their life.”
When a patient calls our office with an IVC filter they would like to have removed, we first have that patient come in for a consultation to discuss why they had the filter in the first place, then we will make a decision on whether retrieval is appropriate for them or not. “Sometimes that’s an easy decision to make,” said Dr. Strife, “and sometimes we need to run further tests and consult with other physicians before making that decision.”
If you would like to discuss concerns or problems you may be experiencing or if your doctor has recommended that you see us for a vascular test, please contact us at (804) 828-2600 or email us.