Inferior vena cava filter devices remain popular in the United States, despite their controversial history. Doctors place them to treat pulmonary embolism (PE), a condition that affects nearly one million Americans each year. IVC filters are basket-like devices that go directly into your inferior vena cava — which is the largest vein in your body. The goal is to break up any clots before they reach your lungs.
While filters may seem harmless, the FDA received 921 adverse event reports from injured patients between 2005 and 2010. This caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to release a 2010 safety warning. Since then, inferior vena cava filter placements in the U.S. fell dramatically, according to a 2017 study. But some doctors still use them — putting patients at risk for device fracture, migration, and perforation injuries.
Researchers Look for New Ways to Help Patients Avoid Inferior Vena Cava Filter Complications
Because hospitals nationwide still use them, researchers are looking for new ways to reduce inferior vena cava filter risks. Several new trends may actually help prevent the most serious IVC filter side effects in DVT and PE patients. If your temporary inferior vena cava filter stays in more than 54 days, #1 below should give you some hope!
#1: IVC Filter Outpatient Clinics
When IVC filters stay in your body for too long, they may become difficult or even impossible to remove. The longer these devices stay inside you, the more dangerous they become to your health. The most severe complications happen when an inferior vena cava filter breaks apart and metal shards pierce nearby organs. In fact, the FDA’s 2014 guidelines say inferior vena cava filter removal within 29-54 days is key for patient safety. However, a new removal clinic may help patients with retrievable filters left in permanently.
In 2009, researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital created a dedicated IVC filter clinic to address this problem. They followed up with patients whose doctors failed to remove their temporary filters after placement. (Often, these patients miss follow-up appointments and don’t consider inferior vena cava filter removal until side effects occur.)
These researchers followed up with patients and used this dedicated outpatient setting to increase IVC filter retrieval rates. Researchers believe expanding these IVC filter clinics can address three main issues that patients currently face:
- Improve patient continuity (e.g., increase access to long-term quality care)
- Increase filter retrieval rates, which also reduces complications (i.e., perforation, fracturing, migration, etc.)
- Allow patients to get the maximum benefit from long-term implantation while minimizing risks
If more hospitals implement dedicated IVC filter clinics, researchers believe the FDA would see fewer adverse event reports from patients. When done properly, this trend is cost-effective and could potentially save hundreds of lives each year.
Trend #2: New Device Designs to Reduce Complication Risks
Up next are two newer device designs meant to mitigate filter complications in high-risk patients. The first is a “temporary” IVC filter attached to a wire or central venous catheter with an externally visible component. (Right now, the only FDA-approved model currently available to U.S. patients is the Angel catheter.) Meant for placement lasting no more than 30 days, Angel catheters are especially useful for critically ill or trauma patients. The external device component reminds doctors to retrieve it — especially since they’re often missed in this patient demographic. While initial trials show promising results, these devices don’t prevent all possible filter-related side effects. However, researchers say the external component especially deserves further exploration.
Another newer IVC filter design is a “convertible” model that changes configuration over time. The Sentry bioconvertible IVC filter is definitely one to watch. It uses a biofilament that breaks down slowly as the filter converts into a stent over a 60-day period. The Sentry completed its two-year trial in November 2018. Researchers observed no IVC filter side effects or injuries among the 129 PE patients enrolled after 24 months.
These newer designs may improve filter retrieval rates, thus minimizing risks that come from leaving them in too long.
Trend #3: A System That Tracks Patients With Retrievable Filters
A 2018 study found that implanting a new tracking system could improve IVC filter patient care. The study’s authors created a semi-automated filter-tracking application and The system built a database of patients given retrievable IVC filters. Specialists were then able to tell physicians which patients were ready for filter removal. They say that the system took about 100 hours total to create.
Dr. Krishna Juluru, M.D., talks about why doctors need such a system. He writes, “By designing a platform to facilitate physician communication before scheduling clinic visits, we intended to identify which patients could benefit from face-to-face discussion regarding a filter retrieval procedure or an ongoing need for filtration.” Dr. Juluru says some patients needed permanent filters. Others had more serious risks with filter retrieval and needed an interventional radiologist’s help.
This system helps patients contact the right physician for their case. And while the system didn’t completely solve the problem, within the study, it helped. The authors concluded the application consistently tracked all IVC filter placements within the institution. It helped interventional radiologists communicate better with physicians. And it was, overall, successful at increasing inferior vena cava filter retrieval rates.
Those With Inferior Vena Cava Filter Injuries May Qualify for Compensation
These new trends are certainly welcome, and may help prevent serious injuries from temporary filters left inside patients. But because manufacturers failed to warn physicians and patients of their dangers, thousands are still at risk. Others have suffered serious complications — some of which are life-threatening. Some have IVC filters which can no longer be removed.
If you or a loved one experience inferior vena cava filter side effects, you may qualify for compensation. To check your eligibility for a cash settlement, fill out your free online IVC filter claim evaluation today. You can confirm your claim’s eligibility for compensation in less than two minutes online. Once you’ve submitted your information, a lawyer will call to discuss how to get the justice and compensation you deserve.
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.