Blood clots can be deadly, especially when you’re at risk of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
Blood-thinning drugs are often used to prevent blood clots for people at high risk. However, many are unable to take anticoagulation medication. For those, doctors often place a tiny filter inside the inferior vena cava (IVC) to catch blood clots, preventing them from reaching the heart or lungs.
These filters – called IVC filters – are placed with the best of intentions, but the devices have been linked to dangerous risks all on their own. Those risks get exponentially greater if the filter is left in place longer than is necessary.
John R. Bartholomew, MD, Section Head of Vascular Medicine in Cleveland Clinic’s Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, says a lack of follow-up is to blame. “Follow-up is often poor because the doctor who inserts the IVCF may not be the one who takes care of the patient. So care is not properly coordinated.”
Patients who are on blood thinners are assessed after three months, and medication is usually stopped if a second clot has not occurred. According to Dr. Bartholomew, IVC filter patients should get the same type of care.
“One of their treating doctors needs to decide whether the filter should come out,” he says, “and, if so, when.”
The majority of IVC filters are placed temporarily, and are designed to be used for only a short amount of time. But if they are not removed once they are no longer necessary, the filter may migrate, fracture, perforate the vein or actually cause blood clots to occur.
IVC filter manufacturers such as C.R. Bard, Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Cordis, and Cook Medical have been the target of hundreds of lawsuits regarding injuries and deaths linked to temporary IVC filters.