Vena Cava Filter

Blood clots may form in arteries or veins. In general, clotted arteries will cause severe pain without swelling whereas clotted veins cause dull aching pain with swelling.

Certain patients are more prone to forming blood clots. For example, prolonged bed rest, many cancers, extensive surgery or trauma, and defects in the clotting mechanism predispose patients to developing blood clots, most often in the form of deep vein thrombosis (DVT.) An IVC filter is a small metallic device which is like an umbrella without the fabric. This is often placed within the IVC, (inferior vena cava, which is the vein bringing blood back to the heart from the lower half of the body.)

If you cannot take blood thinners, you are a candidate for an inferior vena cava filter. The filter will trap any clot or pieces of the clot to keep them from reaching your heart or lungs, while continuing to allow blood flow through the vessel.

Candidates for an IVC Filter:

  • Patients with major trauma/surgery in whom a prolonged bed-ridden course is expected
  • Patients with DVT who continue to have pulmonary emboli despite adequate anticoagulation (blood thinning therapy.)

What happens during the procedure?
This procedure is usually performed on patients who are already in the hospital.

Conscious sedation is provided just prior to starting the procedure.You will lie flat on the x-ray table and be connected to several types of monitoring equipment. The technologist will prepare the skin over your groin by cleaning it with an antiseptic solution and placing sterile drapes and towels over you to create a sterile work space. Local anesthesia (lidocaine) is injected into the skin overlying the femoral vein in the groin if the filter is being placed. If the filter is being removed, the access site will be the neck vein. A catheter is placed into the vein. Contrast dye is injected to allow visualization of the IVC. The contrast causes a brief, mild warm feeling as it enters your bloodstream. During the test, the Interventional Radiologist may ask you to hold your breath for about 5 to 15 seconds. In addition, he may ask you to lie perfectly still to prevent sudden movements from blurring the x ray pictures. The filter is inserted through the sheath in the vein and is deployed as it springs open into the IVC (figure 2).

When the procedure is completed the catheter is removed and pressure is applied over the vein until there is no bleeding (approximately 5-10 min.) This procedure typically requires 30 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

Following the procedure patients are required to remain on bed rest for 2 hours and be monitored for signs of bleeding at the venous insertion site. Thereafter, anyone placing venous lines into your groin should be aware that you have a filter and be careful not to dislodge it.
Please follow up with the Doctor that requested the IVC filter placement to decide the best time to remove it. Temporary filters can stay in place for up to one year.

If you have any questions or need to reschedule an appointment please feel free to contact the Interventional Radiology Office at 802-847-8359. Our business hours are Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Someone is available to take your call after hours for emergencies.

This information is provided by the Fletcher Allen Health Care, Department of Radiology, Division of Interventional Radiology and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact your health care provider.