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Understanding IVC Filters

The Science Behind IVC Filter Lawsuits

The purpose of this page to explain the science behind the IVC filter lawsuits are one of the new mass torts that are generating interest from many products liability lawyers. Like us.

The History and Basic Science

The first inferior vena cava (IVC) filter was in 1967 called the Mobin-Udin filter. This was followed by the Greenfield filter in 1973. Initially these filters required surgery. On some level, we have come a long way. Soon, most IVC filters are placed percutaneously through an IV placed in the femoral vein.

Another advance was retrievable filters which is what these lawsuits are about. They can be left in place permanently or retrieved within a w few months. These filters can be placed via very small catheters under a local anesthetic. The result is that the use of these filters skyrocketed and so did the profits of the medical device manufacturers. One big question is whether profits were put ahead of people.

An IVC is a small metal object. Its’ purpose is to block a blood clot in the legs — deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — from traveling up into the heart, lungs, and the brain. The IVC filter is made of many wires and is placed in the IVC, which is a very large vein connected to the right side of the heart that brings deoxygenated blood from the lower extremities to the heart and the lungs for re-oxygenation.

The IVC serves as a path for a DVT to travel up into the heart, the lungs, and the brain, which can lead to severe complications, including pulmonary embolism, or PE (a blood clot in the arteries of the lungs), that can cause chest pain, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath, and in some cases stroke. An IVC filter serves as a blockage in a blood clot’s path, serving to protect the patient from developing life-threatening complications.

For most patients, an IVC filter is remarkably well tolerated and complications are rare. Certainly, some patients have complications unrelated to the possible negligence of the manufacturers. There is always risk associated with the he presence of a foreign body in any part of your body but particularly the vascular space. There is also sometimes a question of medical malpractice, particularly if the fitter was poorly sized.

But some of these problems may be from poorly made filters. Call Miller & Zois at 800-553-8082 or get a FREE case review if you believe you or a loved one has been harmed or killed by an IVC filter.

What the IVC Filter Does

The IVC filter is designed to allow trapping of clots, preserve blood flow, and be placed easily in the IVC. It is expected that the filter be made of a strong material that is compatible for the human body and shaped to be maintained for a long period.

The filter should be able to trap clots even if it was not placed in an ideal position or site. The filter should not migrate to other parts of the body once placed in the IVC, and it should not perforate the IVC. The filter can be retrievable.

IVC Filter Users

IVC Filter Users

An IVC filter is not a first choice to prevent against blood clotting complications. Initially, blood clots are treated with blood-thinning medications, or anticoagulants, that gradually break down the clots. However, in some patients, anticoagulants are not sufficient or not indicated. An IVC filter is especially useful in patients who:

  • Develop a DVT or PE despite the use of anticoagulants
  • Cannot tolerate anticoagulation therapy due to other conditions, but are still at risk of developing a PE
  • Develop severe bleeding complications from the anticoagulation therapy
  • Possess large clots in the IVC or pelvic veins
  • Have a condition that makes them more prone to developing blood clots in their leg veins. Factors that can make someone more likely to develop blood clots include family history of blood clotting, previous history of clots in leg veins, and a recent surgery or long periods of immobility.
  • Surgical placement of an IVC filter can occur via two pathways: either through the femoral vein in the leg or through the internal jugular vein in the neck. Although the surgery can be highly beneficial in certain patients, it comes with many risks and complications that need to be considered seriously.

IVC Filter Risks

These risks and complications include the following:

  • The IVC filter may be placed in an improper location
  • The IVC filter may travel to the heart or the lungs, or injure nearby organs where it is placed
  • The IVC filter may block enough clots to result in blockage of blood from traveling upstream of the site the filter. This would lead to swelling in legs.
  • A retrievable IVC filter can be removed. However, if it needs to be placed again into the IVC, another surgery is required.
  • Once a retrievable IVC filter is removed, any protection that it provided against clots traveling to the lungs is lost.
  • A retrievable filter cannot be removed under the following circumstances: 1) If a patient continues to be at a high risk of developing clots; 2) If a filter contains many clots; 3) If a filter sticks to the blood vessel wall
  • The safety and efficacy of retrievable filters is not as well-documented as permanent filters
  • An allergic reaction may occur at the site though which the filter was placed in the femoral vein or the internal jugular vein
  • The site where the catheter was inserted (either the leg or the neck) may be injured
  • Severe bleeding can occur due to the surgery, requiring medications or blood transfusions
  • Air may enter the lungs (pneumothorax)
  • Filter may get infected (<1%)
  • There is a possibility that the IVC may perforate. If that were to occur, emergency bypass surgery or repair would be needed
  • Death may occur (<1%)

Over the past 30 years, the use of the IVC filter has significantly increased. By 2007, approximately 167,0000 filters were implanted. The FDA received 921 adverse events reports involving the IVC filter since 2005.

Reports that involved device migration accounted for 328 adverse events, detachment of the device components accounted for 146 events, perforation of the IVC accounted for 70 events, and filter fracture accounted for 56 events. It is hypothesized that these adverse events may occur due the retrievable filter remaining in the body for prolonged periods of time.

Getting a Lawyer for Your Claim

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or death from a IVC filters, you may be eligible for money damages. Call us today at 800-553-8082 or get a free, no obligation online case review.

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