Blood thinners are usually an effective solution for patients with blood clots in their veins. But not all patients can tolerate these medications. That’s when an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter could be the answer to preventing pulmonary embolism, which is fatal in one-third of patients who suffer from it.
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Much like a kitchen sink strainer that stops debris from traveling down the pipes, an IVC filter traps blood clots so they do not travel to the lungs and block blood flow.
Who gets an IVC Filter?
Most patients with blood clots are treated with blood thinners, but those don’t always work. Some patients do not tolerate blood thinners, especially people with a recent bleeding history, such as a bleeding ulcer or stroke. And sometimes, blood thinners don’t prevent clots that can travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism.
Patients with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a previous pulmonary embolism might be recommended for an IVC filter. It’s important to get a second opinion to determine if an IVC filter is the best treatment for you.
Not all filters are the same
Some IVC filters become permanent fixtures in the body—others are temporary and should be removed after a period of time. Permanent filters are used in patients who need long-term protection from pulmonary embolism, either because they have had emboli in the past despite use of blood thinners, or they have a tendency toward clotting and can’t tolerate blood thinners.
Retrievable filters are a short-term solution that protects a patient during an acute situation and then are removed. For example, a patient with DVT who was in a car accident might get a retrievable IVC filter to prevent blood clotting following the injury. Once the risk of this has passed, the filter is removed.
Know which filter you’re getting
Before you get a filter, be sure to find out if it is retrievable or permanent. If you’ve already received one, this information can be learned through a standard X-Ray. Also, a doctor should follow up with you regularly to assess the situation. Filters do carry some low risks. They can cause blockage of the iliac veins or the vena cava if they are not properly monitored and/or removed.
Vena Cava Filters for Treating Venous Disease
Inferior Vena cava (IVC) Filter Retrieval at Cleveland Clinic