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Living with an IVC Filter

Your doctor implanted an IVC Filter to lower your risk of pulmonary embolism. This page offers additional information about living your life with an IVC filter.

Please view the short informational video below.

Important questions regarding your IVC Filter

You may be discharged within a few hours after the procedure. Some people experience tenderness at the site where the catheter was inserted for a few days following the procedure. Once the catheter access site has completely healed, only a small scar may be visible.

Most people will not need to make any changes to their lifestyle or activities due to the IVC filter. However, you should discuss any potential activity restrictions with your doctor.

You should see your doctor regularly for the condition that caused your elevated risk of a pulmonary embolism. Your doctor may also send you for X-ray or ultrasound exams to check on the IVC filter, but these examinations are not always necessary. You should also contact your doctor if you suspect you are experiencing a potential complication.

Once an IVC filter is placed, you will probably not notice that it is there and you should not feel any discomfort. Please consult with your doctor immediately if you feel any chest or abdominal pain, leg redness or swelling, shortness of breath, coughing that produces blood, rapid breathing, or a rapid pulse rate.

Living everyday life with an IVC filter is essentially the same as living without an IVC filter. You don’t know it’s inside you, you don’t feel it’s in there. But you know in your mind that it’s there, and it’s helping to keep you safe.

John, IVC Filter Patient

Lifestyle Couple 1

An IVC filter carries a low risk of complications while it is implanted in the IVC and your IVC filter is intended to remain implanted for as long as necessary to reduce the risk of a PE. Your doctor should assess your risk of PE throughout your treatment and he or she may recommend removal of your filter once the risk of PE subsides. This duration will vary from person to person but if you suspect or have been told that your need for PE protection has subsided, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor about having your IVC filter removed.

The procedure to remove an IVC filter is minimally invasive and very similar to the procedure for placing the filter. Typically, a light sedative and a local anesthetic is given for comfort throughout the procedure. A doctor will make a small incision in a vein in the neck and insert a catheter. The doctor will then guide the catheter using X-ray imaging, through the veins until the tip of it is just above the IVC filter. Next the doctor will insert a device through the catheter and use it to secure the top of the IVC filter. Finally, the doctor will advance the catheter over the filter to collapse it and then remove the filter and the catheter together.

The procedure to remove the IVC filter is usually quick and often completes in less than one hour. Following the IVC filter removal procedure, you may be discharged in a few hours. Then, you may observe some tenderness at the site where the catheter was inserted, but this normally goes away after a few days. When the catheter insertion site has completely healed, only a small scar may be visible.

Follow-up Reminder

You should attend your follow-up appointments with your doctor to assess the condition that caused your elevated risk of pulmonary embolism. You should also attend any follow-up appointments scheduled with the doctor that placed your IVC filter to discuss if and when your IVC filter should be removed.

Important Safety Information

Indications

An IVC filter may be placed if a patient needs to prevent recurrent pulmonary embolism (PE) and blood thinners are not effective, the patient experiences complications from blood thinners, or the patient needs PE prevention in addition to blood thinners.

Contraindications

An IVC filter should not be implanted if (1) the diameter of the patient’s IVC is larger than the filter manufacturer’s recommendations, (2) the patient has bacteria in the bloodstream or known or suspected infected blood clots, (3) the patient has a known severe allergy to nickel or titanium alloys, or (4) the patient is pregnant and radiation from fluoroscopic imaging may endanger the fetus.

Potential Adverse Events

Although risk of a complication is low, complications may occur at any time during the placement procedure, while the filter remains implanted, or at the time of or following filter retrieval. Possible complications include injury or damage to the IVC, injury or damage to structures or organs near the IVC, narrowing or blockage of the IVC, incorrect positioning of the filter, filter movement, new blood clots that could break off and migrate or create a blockage, spasm of the blood vessels, additional PE, an air blockage in the blood stream, infection, difficulty breathing, changes in heart rate or rhythm, heart attack, decreased blood flow through the heart, nerve damage or irregularities, insufficient blood flow to or from the kidneys, kidney failure, a reaction to contrast or medication given during the procedure, injury to the tissues or blood vessels at the access site, filter breakage, migration or failure, inability to retrieve the implanted device as described in instructions for use, and death.