IVC Filter Placement

In an inferior vena cava filter placement procedure, interventional radiologists use image guidance to place a filter in the inferior vena cava (IVC), the large vein in the abdomen that returns blood from the lower body to the heart.

Blood clots that develop in the veins of the leg or pelvis, a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), occasionally break up and large pieces of the clot can travel to the lungs. An IVC filter traps large clot fragments and prevents them from traveling through the vena cava vein to the heart and lungs, where they could cause severe complications or even death.

This protects and prevents blood clots from developing inside the veins of the leg or the pelvis, which is known as a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  These blood clots can eventually break up, where large pieces of the clot can travel and form inside the lungs.  A device called an IVC filter can trap and contain large clot fragments, thereby preventing them from traveling into the vena cava and into the heart and lungs, wherein the clots could cause severe medical complications or even death.

Inferior Vena Cava filters are used for patients who have a medical history of, or are at risk of developing blood clots in the legs.  This includes patients that are diagnosed with or are affected by: 

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
  • Immobility
  • Patients that recently had a baby
  • Patients that recently had surgery
  • Pulmonary embolus
  • Trauma victims

IVC Filter

How do I prepare for an IVC Filter Placement?

Preparation is dependent on a few things, such as blood tests to see if the kidneys are functioning properly, or if the blood is clotting normally.

Your doctor may advise that you discontinue the usage of aspirin, nonsteroidial anti-inflammitory drugs (NSAIDs) or blood thinners.  Insulin users may have to adjust their dosages before the procedure.

A light meal is recommended the night before the patient’s procedure, as food and drink will need to be abstained from after midnight of the day before your (small amounts of clear liquid may be okay).

What should I expect before the procedure?

Patients will be asked to wear a dressing gown, and remove all jewelry, watches, eyeglasses, etc., as such metallic objects may interfere with the clarity of the X-ray imaging.

The patient will then be positioned on their back, and connected to monitors that track blood pressure, heart rate and pulse.  A technologist will insert an IV to administer sedative medication or a general anesthesia.  The catheter insertion point will be sterilized, and numbed with a local anesthetic to allow for a small incision to be made in the skin.

What will I experience during and after the procedure?

Devices to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure will be attached to your body.

You will feel a slight pin prick when the needle is inserted into your vein for the intravenous line (IV) and when the local anesthetic is injected. The arteries have no sensation. Most of the sensation is at the skin incision site which is numbed using local anesthetic.

If sedation is used, you will remain awake but the intravenous (IV) sedative will make you feel relaxed and sleepy so as to reduce anxiety during the procedure.

You may feel slight pressure when the catheter is inserted, but no serious discomfort.

As the contrast material passes through your body, you may get a warm feeling.

You will remain in the recovery room until you are completely awake and ready to return home.

If your IVC filter was inserted through a vein in your neck, you should be able to resume your normal activities within 24 hours. If your filter was inserted through a vein in your groin, you should avoid driving for 24 hours and lifting heavy objects and climbing stairs for 48 hours. The SDMI nurse will provide additional post-procedure instructions before you leave.

How is the procedure performed?

During the procedure, a catheter, an X-ray or ultrasound device, and an inferior vena cava filter will be used during the procedure.  The catheter, once inserted into the skin via a large vein in the neck or groin, will be advanced to the inferior vena cava (IVC) in the abdomen.  The IVC filter is placed through the catheter and into the vein, where the interventional radiologist will release the filter to expand and attach itself to the walls of the blood vessel.

What about removing an IVC Filter?

For removal, another special catheter is inserted in a similar way to the initial procedure, and advanced to the filter site.  A removable IVC filter bearing a small hook or knob enables the catheter to locate and capture the filter, close it off, pull it to the catheter, and remove it from the body.