Vena Cava Filters


The inferior vena cava, or IVC, is a large vein in your abdomen that returns blood from your lower body to your heart. An inferior vena cava filter placement is a procedure to place a small filter in the vein. 

Why place a filter in your IVC? You may have or be at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can develop in the veins of your leg or pelvis. A DVT can be dangerous, as a part of the blood clot can break off and travel to the heart or lungs, where it can cause real damage. If a clot travels to your lungs, that’s called a pulmonary embolism. An IVC filter traps these blood clot fragments before that can happen.
In the past, IVC filters were put in place permanently. Newer filters can stay in or be removed if your risk of blood clots decreases. Your doctor will help you decide which filter is best for you.

What to Expect

Most IVC filter placements are done in the hospital, with at least one overnight stay (a few procedures may be outpatient). 

You may be given a blood test and IV fluids to help protect your kidney function. You may also have an EKG or chest X-ray. 

Once you’re prepped, you’ll go to the cath lab, and EKG patches will be attached to your chest to monitor your heartbeat. You may get a mild sedative to help you relax, but you’ll be awake during the procedure. 

Your doctor will numb a site on your groin or neck and insert a long, narrow tube called a catheter through a plastic introducer sheath (a short, hollow tube) into the blood vessel. The catheter is guided through the blood vessel to the inferior vena cava vein with the aid of a special X-ray machine. Then, a small amount of contrast material is injected through the catheter, and X-ray pictures are created as the contrast moves through the veins. The X-ray pictures of the contrast material are used to identify where the doctor is going to place the filter. 

Once the filter is in place, the sheath will be removed. You’ll rest in bed for up to 2 hours, and be instructed to keep your leg straight if we put the catheter through your groin. Then, you’ll be taken to your room. It’s important to drink plenty of water to help flush out the contrast agent. Before you're discharged, you’ll be given instructions on your medication, on when to follow up with your doctor and on how to care for your procedure site.

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