Patients who don’t respond well to blood thinners can usually tolerate IVC (inferior vena cava) filters. Individuals whose anticoagulant medication doesn’t effectively lower blood-clot risks are also good IVC filter candidates. While they can save lives, IVC filters left in too long can cause life-threatening side effects. Injuries caused by IVC blood clot filter migration are especially dangerous and may even result in death.
IVC blood clot filter migration can cause long-term damage to organs or the interior vena cava vein. Surgeons usually don’t divulge these risks to patients before surgery. As a result, thousands have suffered lasting and sometimes irreversible effects.
IVC Blood Clot Filter Migration Complications
The longer an IVC filter stays implanted, the more dangerous it is. And according to a meta-analysis of 37 different studies, most IVC filters, retrievable or not, aren’t taken out.
The FDA received 921 adverse event reports involving IVC filters. Device migration occurred in 328 cases was (146 involved embolizations or detached device components, 70 perforations, and 56 filter fractures).
When an IVC filter stays in for too long and then migrates, it can cause severe health complications. The most frequently reported include lower-limb deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and IVC perforation.
Dangerous Conditions Caused by IVC Blood Clot Filter Migration
IVC blood clot filter migration can eventually cause some life-threatening conditions without surgical intervention. Here is a breakdown of what these complications do.
Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This complication occurs when a blood clot (also called a thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body. The most likely area is the legs. The first sign is typically pain or swelling in the leg, though some patients do not experience any symptoms. The blood clots in the veins then can break loose, traveling through the bloodstream and lodging in the lungs. There they block blood flow, causing pulmonary embolism.
Inferior Vena Cava Migration. Struts that break off from an IVC filter can migrate to the right side of the heart. These fragments can then lodge themselves in the right ventricular wall, sometimes migrating even further into the pulmonary arteries. From there, it can progress to several different complications, including: penetration, hemopericardium, tamponade and possibly death.
A case study on a 23-year woman undergoing IVC filter migration says, “Management of an IVC fragment which migrates into the right ventricle can be challenging. There are neither clear guidelines nor sufficient literature of how to best manage and treat such complex situations.”
Case Study 1
A case report outlined in the Journal of Vascular Surgery outlines some of the problems that can occur when IVC filter implantation goes wrong.
A specialty hospital in Tempe, AZ admitted a 46-year-old woman with diffuse swelling in her left leg. She received her IVC filter in 2005 after developing recurrent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) with pulmonary embolism while taking prescription blood thinner warfarin. After successful implantation, the hospital discharged her. She then underwent successful anticoagulant therapy. Two years later in 2007, she came to the Tempe hospital to treat the swelling.
An echo-color Doppler study showed a complete thrombosis of the patient’s left iliac vein. The study states, “The IVC filter was completely fractured, with multiple perforations of the IVC wall, producing a perforation of the aortic wall with a mural thrombus.” The study continues, “The [IVC filter] caused a complete IVC thrombosis and wall perforation, with penetration of the filter’s hooks in the aorta, duodenum, and retroperitoneal space.”
The patient was fortunate to receive excellent care from physicians able to extract the IVC filter. Still, retrieval was noted as technically difficult because “the prongs at the distal ends of the struts were included into the posterior wall of the IVC.”
The patient’s circumstances are unusual. However, she isn’t alone in suffering from IVC blood clot filter complications post-implantation. IVC filter placement surgery is highly risky (>30%), and 3.7% of patients die.
Case Study 2
The second case involves a 23-year-old woman admitted to the emergency room with sharp mid-chest pain. A CT angiography did not reveal evidence of a pulmonary embolism, but four “tiny metal objects consistent with fractured struts from an IVC filter were identified in the heart, left and right pulmonary arteries, and upper abdomen.”
Upon closer examination, her doctors found the first strut protruding through the right ventricle wall. This caused a small pericardial effusion. Two struts migrated into pulmonary artery branches (left and right lungs). The fourth remained stuck just outside her inferior vena cava.
Intolerable pain ensued for the patient, as a series of surgeries removed the migrated and fractured pieces of the IVC filter.
What Causes IVC Blood Clot Filter Migration?
While IVC filters can provide life-saving assistance to patients, when left inside the body, they can cause undo harm, as seen in the cases above. And while IVC filters are “retrievable,” surgeons only remove around 33% of these devices. Most complications involve temporary IVC filters that stay implanted for too long.
Leaving these supposedly “temporary” devices in can cause lasting damage, which is why many are filing lawsuits against the device manufacturers for faulty manufacturing and failure to warn about the damages leaving the filters in the body long-term can cause, including IVC filter migration.
What You Can Do
If you or a loved one had an IVC filter surgically implanted and later suffered serious health complications, you may be eligible for compensation. Get free legal advice if you had deep vein thrombosis or damage from fractured, perforated, or migrated IVC filter fragments. An attorney can review your claim and see if you may qualify.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.