A Sweeping Study
Researchers studied more than 550,000 Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and over who had been hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism, or PE, during the time frame, according to the publication. They found that the percentage of patients in which an IVC filter was placed increased from 19 percent in 1999 to 32.5 percent in 2010.
There were also some interesting findings among subgroups that were analyzed. For example, IVC filter placement in patients over the age of 85 increased from 15 percent to 19.46 percent, while placement actually dropped in black patients, going from 20.47 percent to 18.23 percent. IVC filter use increased 22.2 percent in the South Atlantic region of the U.S., while it contrast the use of IVC filters grew 11.3 percent in the Rocky Mountain region.
One of the most telling aspects of the study, however, was the fact that 91 percent of IVC filters were implanted in patients who were in stable condition. According to the researchers, these patients have “not been shown to receive a clinically meaningful benefit” from the filters.
IVC filters are typically implanted into the inferior vena cava, the largest vein in the body. The devices, which resemble a spider, are usually implanted near the groin area. The purpose of the filter is to catch blood clots travelling up from the leg before they reach the lungs or heart.
Many patients have suffered severe health complications when a piece of the filter breaks off and becomes embedded in or punctures a major organ. In some cases, the broken piece can be removed, but in others it cannot because attempting to do could be life-threatening.