Certain deep vein thrombosis (DVT) patients risk developing long-term secondary health complications, like post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). While blood clots from PTS may initially form in your leg, they can easily travel elsewhere within your body. If those clots can get to your lungs and restrict your blood flow, you may suffer a pulmonary embolism (PE). Doctors usually tell new DVT patients to make a few lifestyle changes and sometimes prescribe blood-thinning medications. However, certain DVT patients may require an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter or stent to avoid dangerous blood clot risks. IVC filters are small, cage-like devices that “catch” blood clots before they reach your lungs and prevent DVT or PE. That said, timely vena cava filter removal is just as important for avoiding blood clots.
The longer an IVC filter stays in your body, the more dangerous it is for your health. If you leave a retrievable IVC filter in for longer than recommended, it could seriously injure or even kill you. Many patients with device migration, fractures and perforation injuries flooded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with adverse event reports. As a result, the agency issued a 2010 safety communication urging vena cava filter removal immediately after PE risks subside. Here, we’ll explain why you should schedule your retrievable vena cava filter removal procedure within 60 days after receiving it.
New Study Links Vena Cava Filter Removal to Full PTS Recovery
A November 2017 study reinforces how important timely vena cava filter removal is for DVT patients that develop post-thrombotic syndrome. Researchers observed 31 PTS patients who received either stents or IVC filters to treat their symptomatic iliocaval venous occlusive lesions. The study found IVC filter patients “had a higher rate of complete clinical resolution” if “the filter could be removed.”
Study subjects that underwent vena cava filter removal achieved 100% clinical resolution of their pain, swelling and other PTS-related symptoms. However, subjects that didn’t undergo vena cava filter removal fared worse — achieving just 17% clinical resolution at the one-year mark. Subjects given stents reported 75% clinical resolution of PTS symptoms a year later, including healed ulcers and improved blood flow. The study concludes, “Patients who underwent successful removal of indwelling IVC filters showed improved clinical outcomes.”
Why Don’t All Patients Undergo Vena Cava Filter Removal Procedures?
Although studies show removing IVC filters after blood clot risks subside eliminates most complication risks, many doctors leave them in. A meta-analysis involving 37 blood clot filter studies found only 34% of patients successfully complete vena cava filter removal procedures. “Most of the filters became permanent devices,” the study concludes. Once patients leave an IVC filter in for more than 30 days, their risk for injury rises significantly over time.
For most, their risk for developing DVT or PE goes away much sooner, allowing for successful vena cava filter removal. But the longer these retrievable IVC filters stay in, the more difficult (or even impossible) they are to completely remove. According to the FDA and IVC filter studies, vena cava filter removal 29 to 54 days after implantation is ideal.
Safer IVC Filter Alternatives Include Stents, Catheters
If your doctor suggests an IVC filter to avoid blood clots, ask about other treatment options, like catheters and stents. An interventional cardiologist generally performs a procedure that’s called a balloon angioplasty in order to clear blocked or narrowed arteries. First, your cardiologist inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter directly into the affected blood vessel. Then, your cardiologist inflates a small balloon attached to the catheter’s tip, which opens the blood vessel a little wider. Your doctor can then insert a stent to keep that vein open and your blood flowing normally after the balloon inflates. The catheter and stent help guide clot-dissolving medication directly into blockages or improve overall blood flow.
While both stents and IVC filters help combat the same issue, they aren’t the same device. Generally, stents are safe to leave in your body permanently after placement. IVC filters that stay in for extensive periods can cause injuries and other health risks that aren’t seen with stents. Due to these potentially life-threatening risks, patients whose vena cava removal procedures failed are suing device manufacturers for their injuries.
What Patients with IVC Filter Injuries Can Do
If you or a loved one experienced an IVC filter injury, you may qualify for a cash settlement. Many filters are faulty and easily break apart into fragments, or migrate and puncture internal organs, blood vessels or tissue. To see in just minutes if you may qualify for financial compensation, fill out your free case review form today. Once you’ve submitted your information, an experienced attorney will call and help you 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.