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Study Shows IVC Filters Create Blood Clot Risk

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A new study review published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology Interventions confirms that leaving an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter in the body creates a dangerous risk of associated blood clots.

IVC filters are designed to reduce the risk of blood clots, trapping and holding them until they dissipate. However, research has suggested that the benefits of the devices versus the risks, are unclear, particularly since the devices can fracture and migrate to other areas of the body, causing damage to bodily organs. Though designed to be temporary, data reveals that the devices are not removed when they’re supposed to be, and are often left in the patient’s body, where they can cause future blood-clot related health issues.

IVC Filters Main Cause of IVC Blood Clots

According to the Mayo Clinic, IVC filters are to be used only when patients are unable to take standard blood-thinning drugs, or when these drugs prove to be ineffective. The devices are implanted in the IVC, the main vein taking blood from the legs back to the heart and lungs. There, they are supposed to catch and hold any blood clots, to keep them from traveling to these critical organs, where they can cause pulmonary embolism (PE) and other serious injuries.

According to this study review, however, unretrieved IVC filters are the most common cause of IVC blood clots, unless there is a congenital abnormality. In other words, leaving these filters in the body creates an additional health risk that the patient didn’t have before.

“Due to the substantial increase in the number of IVC filters placed in the United States and the very low filter retrieval rates,” they write, “clinicians are faced with a very large population of patients at risk for developing IVC thrombosis.” They added that if left untreated, patients with IVC thrombosis can suffer complications like post-thrombotic syndrome, venous claudication, pulmonary embolism and venous ulceration.

Other Studies Suggest Caution in Using IVC Filters

The researchers state that their paper aims to enhance awareness of the issue, and to provide diagnostic approaches and treatment strategies for patients who present with IVC blood clots. They added that removal is critical, stating: “Given the significant morbidity associated with IVC filter thrombosis, removal of these filters as soon as possible should be planned from the outset.”

The FDA issued a drug safety communication in 2014 recommending that IVC filters be removed as soon as they are no longer needed, optimally between 29 and 54 days after implementation. Indeed, with the continuing reports of problems, some experts are questioning the wisdom of using the devices at all.

An editorial published in JAMA Internal Medicine questioned the safety of IVCs, with researchers noting that though the devices “should” work in theory, the results had “never been validated by empirical studies.” According to a 2013 study, the use of these filters for the treatment of potential blood clots, combined with the low rates of retrieval, resulted in “suboptimal outcomes due to high rates of venous thromboembolism.”

Both C.R. Bard and Cook Medical are currently defending hundreds of lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who were implanted with an IVC filter and then suffered serious injuries.