New research has emerged detailing what appears to be a significant over-reliance on IVC filters by the medical community in the United States. The study was led by Dr. Riyaz Bashir of Temple University and Temple University Hospital, and found that more than one million IVC filters had been placed in patients over a ten year period.
That total accounts for an increase of IVC filter implants of roughly 22% between 2005 and 2010, and a drop of nearly 30% after an FDA safety communication at the end of that period warned about the dangers of the devices. Even after these warnings, IVC filters are still used 25 times more frequently in the US than in Europe.
IVC filters were designed to help prevent blood clots developing deep in the body’s system of veins and other blood vessels in a condition known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, from traveling through the body. Usually found in the legs, DVTs can occur without warning and only awareness and treatment of accompanying symptoms can save a patient from further complications. It’s also possible that a blood clot breaks free and moves throughout the body. If it makes it to the lungs, a person can suffer a pulmonary embolism that may cause organ damage or even death.
Hospitalizations related to pulmonary embolism have decreased regardless of whether a patient has been implanted with an IVC filter. Even so, it’s possible that doctors find the devices to be more palatable because most modern models are designed to be removed from a patient at some point after implantation.
Medical professionals suggest removal of IVC filters should happen within two or three months or after the risk of pulmonary embolism has passed, but currently less than a third of all IVC filters implanted are ever retrieved. Scheduling a follow-up appointment to do so is neither common practice nor required by law.
An IVC filter poses more risk to the patient with each additional day the device stays in place. It can become fractured, dislodged, or migrate to other parts of the body. They can even perforate the vena cava vein, which plays a critical role in carrying blood to the heart. These adverse events could cause extreme pain or even death in the patient, while additional medical costs continue to mount.
Certain IVC filter models have also been found to be highly defective. One study indicated that after just 71 days of being in place, 100% of patients with a Cook IVC filter showed at least some degree of perforation. A separate investigation by NBC News found that Bard Medical’s ‘Recovery’ model was tied to at least 27 deaths.
By most accounts, the rate at which IVC filters are used is simply too high. Between the harm they can inflict on a patient and the lack of regulation of their use, seeking an alternative solution to blood clots may provide a patient with a much safer path to better health.