What are the risks of an IVC filter?

baird IVC filter risk

One of the services we offer our patients is IV filter placements. Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are small metal devices placed in patients at risk of developing blood clots or deep vein thrombosis in the legs or pelvis; the clots can break off and cause pulmonary embolism, the lodging of an embolus, such as a blood clot, in the lungs. Your doctor may recommend an IVC filter for conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism, trauma immobility or recent surgery or childbirth.

Recently, IVC filters have been a topic of conversation on whether they’re safe or not. We talked to Dr. Brian Strife about IVC filters and here’s what he had to say.

“IVC filters have been placed for the last several decades, developed initially in the 1960’s,” he said. “Originally, they were designed as permanent devices, meaning the filter would be placed in the patient’s vein, and it was designed to remain in place for the life of the patient.”

In the last few years, retrievable filters were developed. They have a hook or some other component to the filter where a physician could grab it and remove it. “Over time, what we learned is that some of these filters were prone to develop problems in a very small number of them,” said Dr. Strife. “The problems included migration, or movement of the filter, fracture or breaking of the filter, and then clotting of the filter.” Those are the 3 main complications that we often hear about with inferior vena cava filters.

“When the filter itself develops a blood clot,” he continued, “it can block the main vein, the IVC, this can lead to significant pain and swelling in the lower extremities. Also, the filters themselves, being made out of metal, over time the metal can stress and fatigue. The filter can break, pieces of the filter can migrate into the patient and damage adjacent organs. Very rarely, pieces of the filter can break off and go to the heart and lungs.”

The filters, whether they are permanent or retrievable types, are meant to stay in the patient for a long time. The filters are made out of stainless steel or some kind of metal alloy that is designed to withstand years of being inside a human body. It’s a rare occurrence that the filters have any problems at all.

“Although these complications are extremely uncommon,” said Dr. Strife. “It is a source of patient anxiety and we often receive a number of phone calls from patients asking if they should have their filter removed to avoid these complications.”

“In 2010, the FDA recommended that physicians who placed these filters, and physicians who follow patients with these filters, make an attempted to consider IVC filter retrieval when the filter is no longer needed,” he continued. “Sometimes that’s a tough question to answer, because we don’t necessarily know which patients are best suited to have a filter in for the rest of their lives. When a patient calls our office and says ‘I have an inferior vena cava filter and I’d like to have it removed,’ we typically have the patient come in for a consultation, discuss why they have the filter in the first place, and try to make an informed decision on whether retrieval is appropriate for them or not. Sometimes, that’s a very easy question to answer, sometimes we need to do additional tests and consult with other physicians before making that decision.”

If you need an IVC filter, our would like to talk to us about one you currently have, call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

Conscious Sedation

baird conscious sedation

One of the first questions that our patients ask us when they are scheduled for a procedure is, “Will I feel pain?” This is an understandable concern for someone getting ready to undergo a minimally invasive procedure, especially if it’s their first time having a medical procedure performed. Minimizing pain and discomfort is one of our primary concerns here at BVI. We want to do everything possible to ensure that our patients have a positive experience during their visit which is why we use conscious sedation during many of our procedures.

What is conscious sedation?

Conscious sedation is when a combination of medicines is administered to help you relax (a sedative) and to block pain (an anesthetic) during a medical procedure. Conscious sedation is safe and effective for people who need a minimally invasive procedure. Here at BVI, these medicines are given through an intravenous line (IV) by one of our nurses under the direct supervision of a physician. You will begin to feel drowsy and relaxed very quickly. You may fall asleep, but you will wake up easily to respond to people in the room. You may be able to respond to verbal cues. You will be monitored throughout the entire procedure by our medical team to make sure that your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels stay within safe limits.

The medicine will wear off quickly and recovery after the procedure is generally very fast. After conscious sedation, you may feel drowsy and not remember much about your procedure including any associated pain. Afterwards, you will feel sleepy and may have a headache or feel sick to your stomach. During recovery, your finger will be clipped to a special device (pulse oximeter) to check the oxygen levels in your blood and your blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored. You should be able to go home 1 to 2 hours after your procedure.

Is conscious sedation the same as general anesthesia?

No. General anesthesia (also known as deep sedation) is when you are administered drugs that put you in a totally unconscious state. Under general anesthesia, you have no awareness of the procedure or your surroundings at all. General anesthesia is usually reserved for more complex and lengthy procedures or when your provider deems in necessary. General anesthesia also comes with higher associated risks. Only licensed anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists are able to administer general anesthesia. Recovery times are usually longer than conscious sedation and may present more unpleasant side-effects. BVI does NOT use general anesthesia.

Before the Procedure

Be sure to tell us if you are or could be pregnant. We also want to know what medicines you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription. A day or two before the procedure, one of our nurses will contact you to go over pre-procedural instructions. This generally includes:

  • Not eating or drinking six hours prior to the procedure
  • Be sure to have someone accompany you to the procedure. You will not be in any shape to drive home
  • Discussion of any lab work that will be required prior to your procedure
  • Arrive at the time instructed

You will be given an instruction packet with more detailed information prior to your procedure. And as always, if you have any questions you can give us a call at (804) 828-2600 to talk with one of our providers. Conscious sedation is a safe and effective way to minimize pain and anxiety for our patients.