Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filters
The inferior vena cava, or IVC, is a major blood vessel that returns deoxygenated blood from your lower body back to your heart. An IVC filter is a small, cone-shaped medical device that is placed into your IVC just below your kidneys to prevent blood clots in your legs from traveling to your heart and lungs. IVC filter insertion is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed on an outpatient basis.
What Are the IVC Filter Types We Offer?
There are two types of filters (permanent and retrievable) that can be placed in your body. Your doctor will determine which filter is right for you.
1. Permanent Filters
Permanent IVC filters are placed in patients including, but not limited to, those that are unable to take anticoagulant medications or patients that are elderly. These IVC filters are permanently left in place in your body.
2. Retrievable Filters
Retrievable filters are placed and then can be removed once your risk for clotting has been decreased. Retrievable filters are placed in patients that have only a temporary risk of Pulmonary Embolism (PE), or need to hold their anticoagulation medications for surgery, or have temporary bleeding problems. A retrievable filter can always be left in place permanently if your doctor decides this is best for you or it can be removed at a later date when your doctor determines it is safe to have your filter removed.
Who Needs an IVC Filter?
An IVC filter would be placed if you were diagnosed with a PE and/or a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and not able to take blood thinning medications also known as anticoagulants. Some patients are unable to take anticoagulation medication for various reasons, so make sure to tell your physician your complete medical history. An IVC filter will trap clots from your lower extremities preventing them from traveling to your heart and lungs. IVC filters are also sometimes placed in patients who are undergoing surgery that places them at high risk for DVT or PE.
How Is an IVC Filter Placed?
During the procedure, you will lie flat on your back. Your neck or leg will be scrubbed with an antiseptic soap and covered with a sterile drape to help prevent infections. A local anesthetic, a numbing medication, will be injected under your skin to prevent discomfort when the tube (catheter) is placed. Other than the sting or burning of this medicine, you should not feel pain with the procedure.
Additional medication can be given if you are having any additional discomfort.
A catheter will be placed into your leg or neck and guided into the IVC in your abdomen using fluoroscopy (a type of x-ray) to visualize the guiding of the catheter into your IVC. X-ray dye will be injected through the catheter and images will be taken of the IVC in your abdomen that connects your leg veins to your heart. Next, your doctor will thread the filter through the catheter and place it in your IVC where it attaches itself to the wall and remains in place. It will filter your blood, trapping any pieces of a clot as they flow from your legs.
Once the filter is placed, the catheter will be removed and pressure will be applied over the site where it went into the skin for about 5 minutes. When the bleeding has stopped, a bandage will be placed over the site.
How Is an IVC Filter Removed?
If you have a temporary filter and your physician has determined it is no longer necessary, the filter can be removed in a procedure similar to the way in which it was placed. X-ray dye (contrast) will be injected around the IVC filter to verify that the area beneath the filter is free of blood clots and that it is safe to proceed with removal. A catheter-based snare will be used to engage the hook at the end of the filter and the filter will then be enveloped by a removal sheath and removed from your body.
What Are the Risks of IVC Filters?
Both permanent and retrievable filters carry similar risks. When either type of filter is placed there is a risk for bleeding and infection. If several clots are trapped in the IVC filter this may cause clot formation down your IVC causing leg swelling or redness and requires treatment. Filter-related risks also include tilting, migration, fracture, and vein perforation.
Ask your doctor if you have questions on the benefits and risks of IVC filters.
How We Can Help You With IVC Filter Placement Procedure and Removal
At Azura Vascular Care, we deliver far more than our patients expect. We bring our full range of medical capabilities and service excellence to every patient, every visit at each of our centers nationwide. Our physicians are specialists in the field of vascular care. Our interventional radiologists, interventional nephrologists and vascular surgeons use minimally invasive procedures such as IVC filters, to help prevent clots from traveling from your legs up to your lungs, where they can become dangerous. The clinical staff at our outpatient vascular centers combines medical expertise and compassion to guide you through your treatment journey every step of the way.
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