The body’s ability to stop its own bleeding is pretty incredible when you think about it. Under normal circumstances, an abrasion or cut will eventually stop bleeding on its own because your blood solidifies and coagulates to prevent any further loss. It’s one of the most important ways the body protects itself. Without this ability, a minor cut, scrape, or abrasion could turn into a life-threatening injury; a threat that hemophiliacs deal with on a daily basis.
However, when blood clots develop inside the body’s blood vessels, an entirely new set of problems can arise. Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, occurs when a blood clot develops within the body’s system of veins and other blood vessels; usually in the legs. DVTs can occur without warning and it is only awareness and treatment of the symptoms of a DVT that can save the person from further complications.
Those complications can be severe because an internal blood clot can break free and move throughout the body. If it makes it to the lungs, the person can suffer a pulmonary embolism. PEs can cause organ damage, and even death in some circumstances.
Through the years, many blood clot and DVT patients have been treated with medical devices called IVC filters. The IVC filter is a small, umbrella-like device that is implanted within the inferior vena cava – a main vein within the body. The filter is designed to catch blood clots as they move through the bloodstream and stop them before they can reach the lungs.
Unfortunately, IVC filters have been plagued by problems. Designed – in many instances – as temporary solutions, IVC filters are usually left in place much longer than they were ever intended to be. Studies indicate that less than a third of all IVC filters that are implanted are ever retrieved from the patient’s body despite FDA recommendations to remove the devices once PE risk has passed.
At the same time, a number of IVC filters are particularly prone to device malfunctions and defects. Pieces of the IVC filter have been shown to break off of the device shortly after implantation. These pieces can then begin traveling throughout the body via the bloodstream. Aside from causing possible organ damage themselves, they can also become lodged in or perforate blood vessels.
One of the main manufacturers of IVC filters; C.R. Bard, Inc, was allegedly aware of these issues long before they became a public health issue, yet continued to aggressively market their devices. Internal Bard records indicate memos specifically addressing the likelihood of filter “migration, titling, and perforation.”
Dangerous in their own right, blood clots present two sets of problems when coupled with the possibility that the treatment might also cause harm and even death. If you ever experience any of the symptoms of a blood clot or DVT, seek medical attention immediately.