Is Your Blood-Clot Filter Overstaying Its Welcome?
If you have an IVCF to protect you from dangerous blood clots, you shouldn’t have them left in longer than they’re needed.
A blood clot in the right place — say, at the site of a cut — can save your life. But a blood clot in the wrong place — in the lungs, for example — can be deadly.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
For some people, blood-thinning drugs are not an option. However, a tiny filter placed in a vein below the kidneys can provide them with protection. These devices are called inferior vena cava filters, or IVCFs.
Although IVCFs do a great job, they have risks of their own. And those risks multiply if the filters are left in place longer than they’re needed.
“Follow-up is often poor because the doctor who inserts the IVCF may not be the one who takes care of the patient,” says vascular medicine specialist John Bartholomew, MD, “So care is not properly coordinated.”
Most patients on blood thinners are evaluated after three months. If the reason for the first clot was known, and a second clot has not occurred, the medication is usually stopped.
Patients with an IVCF should be treated the same way, says Dr. Bartholomew.
“One of their treating doctors needs to decide whether the filter should come out — and, if so, when,” he says.
Most IVCFs implanted today are intended for short-term use, although they can be left in the body permanently if necessary.
If they are not removed when they are no longer needed, however, the risks begin to outweigh the benefits. In rare cases, the filter can migrate up the vein, break apart, and perforate the vein or cause blood clots to occur.
That’s why they shouldn’t be forgotten.
At Cleveland Clinic’s IVC Filter Retrieval Clinic, patients with IVCFs are evaluated to determine whether their filters should be removed or left in place.
“At the time a filter is being put in, the doctor should make sure you have a follow-up appointment in two or three months. You also need a plan for when the filter should be removed,” says Dr. Bartholomew.
“If you’ve had a filter for more than three months and have not been evaluated, tell your doctor right away.”