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Do the Risks of IVC Filters Outweigh the Benefits?
According to a recent study that appeared in the October 2015 issue of the Annals of Surgery, IVC (inferior vena cava) filters may not be as effective as proponents claim. According to the study, not only do IVC filters fail to increase survival rates in trauma patients, but IVC filters do not decrease the likelihood that patients will develop potentially dangerous blood clots in their legs.
Is the Risk Greater than the Reward?
Trauma patients are prone to a very high risk for potentially life-threatening blood clots. Although IVC filters are being increasingly used to help prevent those clots from forming, the study shows there is very little data to support the efficacy of the device.
Researchers with the University of Michigan studied 803 trauma patients who had IVC filters implanted. Not only did the device fail to increase those patients’ chances of survival, it actually increased the risk of blood clot formation by 83 percent.
These findings suggest that IVC filters do not do what their marketers promise—to reduce the risk of death due to a blood clot entering the lungs.
A Potentially Deadly Flaw
An IVC filter is a small, metal device typically implanted near the groin area in the inferior vena cava (the largest vein in the body). It is designed to catch blood clots that form in the legs before they can reach the lungs. However, there have been many instances where a piece of the device has fractured and punctured major organs such as the heart or liver. This can result in serious health complications, but many times doctors choose to leave the piece embedded in an organ because the risks of removing it could be life-threatening.