Inferior Vena Cava Filters: Do the Risks Outweigh the Benefits?

Gabriel A. Assaad
Partner Gabriel Assaad represents victims of negligence and medical malpractice nationwide.

When at risk for a pulmonary embolism (PE), your doctor may suggest using an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter. These potentially life-saving devices can capture dangerous clots that can enter your lungs and could otherwise lead to catastrophic injuries. Unfortunately, the use of IVC filters comes with many risks.

Recently, IVC filters have made numerous headlines after it was revealed that Bard IVC filters were causing serious injury—even death—among those patients that used them. What is even more disturbing is that the maker of the filters, C.R. Bard, may have intentionally sold these IVC filters, which ultimately caused 27 deaths and approximately 300 injuries, knowing that they were dangerous.

IVC Filter Fundamentals

When patients are at risk for developing blood clots, doctors employ a variety of different methods to stop these clots from traveling throughout the body. Typically, medical professionals try blood-thinning medications to prevent the formation and dissolution of clots. However, when that blood thinners aren’t effective or the patient isn’t able to tolerate that type of treatment, IVC filters are often used.

The filters are inserted into the patient’s vena cava—the largest vein in the body—just below the kidneys. The IVC filters are designed to capture blood clots that break away from the veins in the legs before they reach the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. The cone-shaped devices are typically effective and have saved many lives, but they aren’t without risk.

Potential Dangers Associated With IVC Filter Use

Just about every type of medical procedure comes with possible dangers, but the use of an IVC filter has very serious and potentially life-threatening risks. Along with the chances of patients having allergic reactions to the anesthesia used during Scale Weighing the Potential Benefits and the Riskssurgery and infection incurring at the surgery site, IVC filters can also put patients’ lives at risk when things go wrong. The following are a few examples of some of the risks:

  • Migration, or movement, of the filter. Although this may not sound too dangerous, it can be. The filter can actually pierce the heart or cause other serious injuries to parts of the body in which it comes in contact with. The results can be fatal.
  • Deep venous thrombosis (DVT). This potentially deadly condition occurs when a blood clot is formed deep in the body. According to a recent study, 40 percent of the patients involved developed DVT after receiving IVC filters. New blood clot formation puts patients at risk for serious complications, such as PE. 
  • Vein perforation. The filter can cause holes or tears in the artery walls, resulting in major blood loss. In some cases, emergency bypass surgery or repair of the perforation is required.
  • Filter fracture. Sharp, metal pieces can break off of the filters and cause severe damage and death if they penetrate the body.

Should You Use an IVC Filter?

Before you agree to have an IVC filter implanted, you’ll need to have a serious discussion with your doctor about the risks and benefits of the device. Ensure that your doctor has plans to remove the device after the risk of PE is over, as recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA recommends that IVC filters are removed from patients between 29 and 54 days after implantation. Naturally, the longer they are left in, the greater the chances of complications occurring.

You’ll also want to discuss which brand the doctor wants to use. Filters made by Bard, Cook, and Gunther have had the most incidences of adverse events, but are also the most popular brands. Take the brand your doctor prefers into account when making your decision.

Were You Injured by an IVC Filter?

The attorneys of Kennedy Hodges LLP have extensive knowledge and experience when it comes to helping people who have suffered from serious complications as a result of IVC filters and other medical devices. Schedule your free consultation by calling 855-947-0707 and speak with one of our legal professionals about your situation. You don’t have to suffer because of someone else’s negligence. Call today to start learning more about your rights.