The inferior vena cava (IVC) is the large vein in the abdomen that transports blood from the lower body to the heart. When blood clots form in the legs or pelvis—known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)—part of those clots may break off, travel into the upper body through the IVC, and reach the heart or lungs. This can cause serious health complications or even death.
If you’ve been diagnosed with blood clots, your doctor may suggest inferior vena cava filter treatment to try to prevent those serious health complications. In IVC filter treatment, a filter is inserted into the IVC to catch blood clot fragments, preventing them from reaching the heart or lungs.
The procedure involves a small incision to the neck or groin through which a catheter is inserted. The filter is then pushed through the catheter into its place in the IVC and, once in place, the filter is released to expand and attach itself to the walls of the blood vessel. This ensures that the filter will not shift or move during the course of treatment.
IVC filter treatment is a minimally invasive and relatively painless procedure, and the patient is usually awake or slightly sedated during the insertion. Afterwards, the insertion site is treated with dressing—no sutures are required—and the entire procedure is completed within one to two hours. The filter is removed in the same way that it’s inserted, making IVC filter treatment a very low-maintenance way to prevent very serious health complications.
IVC filter treatment is not for everyone, but it is often a good option for people who:
- Have DVT
- Cannot be treated with blood thinning agents
- Are immobile
- Have a high risk of developing fatal pulmonary embolism (i.e. patients who have severe respiratory compromise)