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IVC inferior vena cava filter malfunctions

For many years patients who suffer from deep vein thrombosis have been electively placing filters in their inferior vena cava to prevent a blood clot in a patient’s lower extremities from breaking off and entering their lungs.  An IVC filter is commonly used when a patient does not respond well to blood thinners or is at risk of falling which could dislodge the blood clot.

Up until recently this procedure has been classified as a relatively safe procedure with very little risk of an adverse effect.  Recent studies have shown that many of the filters on the market today have become increasingly susceptible to migration, perforation and disassembly.  This means that the side effects of having an IVC implanted may be much more severe than was originally thought.  In order to understand what this means and how it effects a possible patient you must understand how the filter is put in place and how it works.

           A typical IVC filter is considered permanent and once it is in place is not intended to be moved unless it impedes the patient’s health.  A filter is put in the inferior vena cava percutaneously (through the vein) using an introducer kit and attaches itself to the venal walls using small sharp hooks at the end of a set of legs.  Once the legs catch hold of the venal wall they embed themselves in the tissue.  The longer the device remains in the patient’s inferior vena cava the more permanent it becomes.  This device then sits inside the vein and will catch any potential blood clots that become dislodged from the patient’s lower extremities.

Some potential problems with these filters are that the hooks themselves can penetrate the vein wall and protrude into other portions of the body.  These sharp hooks can cause internal bleeding (especially while a person is on blood thinners) and also can penetrate other organs within the body such as the intestine.  This is a potential risk of the implanting and IVC filter and should be discussed with your surgeon before implementation.

Also, if a person’s vein is too large to accommodate the IVC filter used it may not adhere to the vein wall properly and can migrate up into the heart and/or superior vena cava.  This is a potentially deadly risk of the surgery.  Make sure that you have a competent surgeon to perform the surgery, and make sure that he follow all the appropriate standards for the IVC filter being used.

There is also the potential that a portion of the filter breaks off from the main body and migrates into the blood stream causing severe damage.  This piece can enter the heart or lungs and cause severe internal bleeding and death.  Bard and Greenfield (Boston Scientific) filters are common filters used in this procedure.

Please make sure that you use a qualified surgeon when undergoing this surgical procedure.  Many of the problems with inputting an IVC filter are due to human error and could be alleviated if the surgery is performed in accordance with the standard of care and the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you or a loved one has sustained adverse physical damages due to the implantation of a Greenfield or Bard filter please contact us immediately.  We will review your case and inform you of your legal options free of charge.