An IVC filter is one method to help prevent Blood Clots and Pulmonary embolism. Your inferior vena cava (IVC) is the major vein that brings oxygen-poor blood from the lower body back to the heart. The heart then pumps the blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. An IVC filter is a small, wiry device. When the filter is placed in your IVC, the blood flows past the filter. The filter catches blood clots and stops them from moving up to the heart and lungs. This helps to prevent a pulmonary embolism.

It’s important to understand that an IVC filter does not protect against DVT. You may still get a DVT. The filter helps to protect you from a life-threatening pulmonary embolism if you have a DVT.

You might need an IVC filter if you have a DVT or pulmonary embolism, or have had either of these in the past. Your healthcare provider may advise an IVC filter if:

  • You can’t take blood thinner medicine
  • You took blood thinner medicine and it didn’t work

Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters were developed for the treatment of venous thromboembolism but in high-risk patients are often used for prophylaxis instead.

In the study reported here, we reviewed all the orthopedic surgery cases in which IVC filters were used at our institution in 2005. Charts were analyzed and patients contacted by telephone for long-term follow-up. IVC filters were used in 90 (0.96%) of the 9348 inpatient orthopedic surgeries.

Sixty-one percent of filters were placed for prophylaxis, although, only 42% of patients with prophylactic filters had a contraindication to anticoagulation. Eighty-one percent of patients with prophylactic filters who received anticoagulation received warfarin. Ratios of prophylactic-to-treatment filters were 3.25 for fracture surgeries, 2.1 for arthroplasties, and 0.89 for spine surgeries. Five percent of patients with prophylactic filters developed deep vein thrombosis. Fifty-two percent of filters were retrievable, but only 40% of those were removed a mean of 5.1 months (SD, 3.9 months) after placement. Filter removal was associated with complications in 11% of patients, and in another 10% the filter could not be removed. Forty-one patients were contacted a mean of 21 months (SD, 3 months) after filter placement. Only 32% of those who still had filters were on anticoagulation at follow-up.

You may need surgery to place an IVC filter when you have blood clotting problems. You may also need it if you are at risk of having blood clots, such as during pregnancy or surgery. You may also need it after trauma, such as a head injury or fractured pelvis. A filter may also prevent patients who have a history of deep venous thrombosis, from getting clots in their lungs. When medicine to thin the blood cannot be used, an IVC filter may be placed.

Inferior vena cava filter placement is surgery to place a filter into your inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava, or IVC, is a large blood vessel found in your abdomen (stomach). It begins at your abdomen, and continues up to your heart, inside your chest. The IVC brings blood from the lower parts of your body back to your heart. During the procedure, a catheter (thin plastic tube) is inserted into the blood vessels in your neck or groin. A Doppler ultrasound or fluoroscope (x-ray) is used to guide the catheter into your IVC. The IVC filter is inserted through the catheter and into the IVC where it attaches to the walls of the vein. The catheter is pulled out after the procedure and the filter is left in.