Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are medical devices meant to prevent blood clots and deep vein thrombosis from migrating and reaching the heart and lungs. While many patients have had positive outcomes using IVC filters, others have suffered devastating health complications, injuries, and even death.
There are currently product liability lawsuits against IVC filter manufacturers that maintain that the company reasonably should have prevented injuries and deaths through proper safety testing and better instructions for use. Learn the potential dangers of IVC filters to better understand your right to a personal injury lawsuit after suffering a related injury.
IVC filters are small, claw-shaped vascular filters made of stainless steel or nitinol. They are relatively new in the medical industry and do not have well-established histories of safety, effectiveness, or success. Doctors generally only recommend the placement of an IVC filter in very high-risk cases involving pulmonary embolisms. Part of the potential problem with IVC filters is the metal spindles perforating blood vessels upon placement.
A physician must place IVC filters into the blood vessels, either through surgery or using catheters. During IVC filter placement, the patient may suffer bleeding or bruising at the access site, incorrect placement, blood vessel perforation, or defective filter deployment. These issues can lead to a lost or difficult-to-retrieve filter, as well as medical complications. Punctured blood vessels could collapse and cause additional problems.
Delayed Removal of IVC Filters
IVC filters can be temporary (retrievable) or permanent (non-retrievable). The majority of IVC filters are not meant to stay in the body forever. They are only meant to intervene in high-risk situations until the risk has passed. Retrievable filters have pieces that allow surgeons to snare them and pull them back into a catheter. However, studies have shown that the longer an IVC filter remains in the blood vessel, the more difficult it is to remove.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated in 2014 that patients with IVC filters should get them removed as soon as the danger of a pulmonary embolism has passed. The FDA found in an analysis that a risk/benefit assessment of IVC filters favored removing them between 29 and 54 days after placement. This is because if it’s in the vein too long, the IVC filter has a higher chance of migrating out of place and through the veins.
A migrating filter cannot do its job as intended and could also pose a risk of reaching the heart or lungs (embolization). Delayed removal of the filter also increases the odds of filter fracture, vein perforation, and difficulty removing it at all. If a physician negligently fails to remove the filter in a timely manner, he or she could be liable for a patient’s harms.
Another issue some patients have encountered are defective IVC filters failing to properly deploy or breaking apart while in the blood vessel. A fractured filter cannot perform its job to hold a clot in place and prevent it from traveling to the heart or lungs. Malfunctioning IVC filters could point to manufacturer liability for a defective or dangerous product. The same is true of IVC filters that do not come with proper warnings of potential risks.
Irretrievable IVC Filters
In some cases, IVC filters remain in the body so long that it becomes impossible to remove them. The filter may become embedded in the walls of the vein or in scar tissue. It may take extensive surgeries to locate and remove the IVC filter from the vessel – or else physicians might decide to leave it in. Inability to remove the filter could put the patient at constant risk of perforation or embolism should the filter start to migrate. If you experienced issues with an IVC filter, contact a Fort Lauderdale product liability lawyer right away. You could be eligible for compensation.