What Does an IVC Filter Look Like & Why are They Dangerous?

IVC filters are medical devices associated with a host of medical complications including migration (moving) of the device itself, device fracture,  organ puncture, perforation, inability to remove the device, and internal bleeding. It’s a long and terrifying list of, essentially, some of the worst possible medical complications a person can have. Not only can the device break off and migrate to totally new body parts, it can also damage organs along the way, or become embedded within a body part so that, once a doctor is finally able to see that the device is dangerous to the patient and causing problems, there is nothing that can be done, because it is just too dangerous or even impossible to remove the device.

We’ve written about the 101’s of IVC filters and about the most important things patients need to know when considering an IVC filter lawsuit. Now, we’re talking about the medical device itself, what it looks like, how it was designed and what, exactly, went wrong.

First: What Does it Look Like?

Depending on the manufacturer, an IVC filter is a very small filter with either metal wires, thin rods or multiple spokes that are used to grab and trap blood clots in order to prevent blood clots from reaching the lungs. In addition to the metal wires, thin rods or multiple spokes, there is a hook at one end of the filter that is used to help implant and retrieve the IVC filter once its job is done.

How Does it Work?

The IVC filter is implanted into the vena cava vein by a surgeon, radiologist or cardiologist using a catheter-like snare; the snare implants the device through a small incision made in either the neck or groin area.
Some IVC filters are made to be temporary. They are called “retrievable” IVC filters and the doctor “retrieves” the IVC filter in much like the same way as he or she implanted it. First, they use X-ray dye around the device to check and see if it is safe to remove. Then, they attach the snare to the hook and pull the IVC filter out of the vein using a sheath that covers the filter.

Why the Vena Cava?

The inferior vena cava is the biggest vein in the human body. Its role is to move de-oxygenated blood from the lower legs to the heart’s right atrium and then to the lungs. It’s the same exact route blood clots can take, traveling through the vena cava into the lungs to create a life threatening event called a pulmonary embolism. This is why IVC filters are implanted by doctors in this specific, very important, vein.

So, What Went Wrong Design-Wise?

Unfortunately, many people who were implanted with temporary IVC filters were unable to have their devices removed — because, once that dye was administered, it showed that there was no way out, or that some of the filter had “disappeared” and moved entirely.

For some of these patients they may have been unable to continue with their profession or their physical activities had to be severely restrained because the filter could not be removed.

And some patients may even have passed away after they were told that the device could not be removed. These patients may have passed away from IVC filter-related complications like puncture organ, internal bleeding or migration of the filter that caused a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs).

What Can You Do Now?

Any patient or family member whose loved one was seriously injured or died because of IVC filter-related complications is able to file a lawsuit to hold the manufacturers of IVC filters accountable, and to be financially compensated for their suffering. To find out how an IVC filter could help you, contact an IVC lawyer at Baron and Budd at 866-731-7909 or complete our contact form.

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