Doctors often prescribe blood thinners to reduce pulmonary embolism (PE), blood clot, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) risks. However, there are times when getting an inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter) is absolutely necessary. Surgeons implant these small, pointed screens into the inferior vena cava in order to catch potentially deadly blood clots. IVC filters help prevent pulmonary embolism (PE) and reduce venous thromboembolism (VTE) by keeping blood clots out of your lungs. Of course, both blood thinners and IVC filters have complication risks. But surgeons agree that in some cases, IVC filter indications beat prescription blood thinners — for both efficacy and safety reasons.
Three Most Commonly Approved IVC Filter Indications
Below are three IVC filter indications for cases where blood thinners cannot effectively manage your medical condition.
#1: You meet IVC filter indications criteria because you’re non-responsive or had a negative response to anticoagulants.
If your body previously rejected or reacted badly to taking blood thinner medications, you’ll probably need an IVC filter instead. Without any way to catch and dissolve blood clots, your risk of developing PE, DVT, or VTE increases significantly. Your doctor should review your medical history to see how your body responds to prescribed anticoagulants. One of the most common IVC filter indications is if you’ve had an active gastrointestinal bleed or a recent neurosurgery. If you developed a PE on anticoagulants, your body’s non-responsiveness to medication makes you a likely IVC filter placement candidate. Patients who refuse to comply with anticoagulation medication treatment also fall under the medical guidelines for IVC filter indications.
#2: You’ve already suffered an acute venous thrombotic event (VTE), one of the few IVC filter indications all cardiologists agree on.
An acute venous thromboembolic event (VTE) can require IVC filter placement in otherwise-normal blood thinner patients. Detection of a large iliocaval or floating IVC thrombus (e.g., “widow-maker” thrombus) is among the more well-defined IVC filter indications.
#3: You are hemodynamically unstable and therefore may not respond to anticoagulants.
Most medical professionals and studies agree that hemodynamically unstable PE patients are among the least-controversial IVC filter indications. This is especially true in patient populations where another PE could prove fatal.
When Are Blood Thinners Considered To Be More Effective And Less Risky Than IVC Filters?
If anything listed below describes your current condition, you’re unlikely to meet the stringent guidelines used for IVC filter indications. In these cases, taking your blood thinner medication as prescribed can help you avoid any potentially serious IVC filter complications.
#1: You’re already taking blood thinners, which manage your medical condition quite well.
If your anticoagulant medication’s currently working as expected, it’s your best treatment option to prevent PE or DVT. Since blood thinners have fewer side effects and complications than IVC filters, they should always be your first choice. (If your body stops responding to blood thinners, ask your doctor about other available options specifically for treating your condition.)
#2: Doctors prefer blood thinners for patients who already experienced complete vena cava thrombosis.
A thrombotic event such as complete vena cava thrombosis usually makes you a poor IVC filter placement surgery candidate. In some cases, implanted IVC filters left in too long can trigger inferior vena caval thrombosis. Various cancers can also lead to this dangerous condition. Anticoagulants are the go-to treatment method if there’s any chance of a foreign body obstructing the vena cava.
#3: Your inferior vena cava’s either too large or too small to safely implant the IVC filter in it.
If an IVC filter doesn’t fit properly within your vena cava, it could cause more harm than good. Unless the IVC filter’s properly inserted, you risk suffering serious migration, perforation or other device-related internal injuries.
What You Can Do
Your doctor can walk you through all IVC filter indications and contraindications when discussing your treatment options. Since blood thinners can readily treat most of the same health conditions as IVC filters, be sure to weigh all your potential risks and benefits. Since many patients leave retrievable IVC filters in too long, set an appropriate filter removal timeline with your surgeon. If you experienced serious health complications after IVC filter implantation, you may be eligible for financial compensation Get your free IVC filter claim review in just minutes to see if you may qualify for a cash settlement.
Related: Clot Filters Cost Patients More Money for No Benefits, Says Study
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.