Injuries and Complications from IVC Filter Implants

Defective inferior vena cava (IVC) filters can cause patients serious injuries and complications, including

These injuries may cause chronic pain, permanent injuries, and sometimes even death. 

If you have been harmed by your IVC filter, consider filing an IVC filter lawsuit for negligence and product liability against the medical manufacture (the most common ones are Bard, Cook, and Boston Scientific). The financial rewards could be substantial and help ease your journey to healing. Click on an IVC filter complication below to learn more.

Victims of defective IVC devices may be able to recover large settlements from the device manufacturer.

1. Tilting

Surgeons implant IVC filters in the best position to both catch blood clots while also causing as little disturbance as possible to the vein. But if the device tilts even slightly, not only does it increase chances of blood clots seeping through; it also may put added pressure on the vein wall and cause damage.

Another consequence of tilting is that it may make it more difficult and dangerous for the surgeon to remove the filter down the road. And in some cases, the surgeon may be unable to remove a tilted filter at all. And the longer a defective device stays in the patient's body, the more likely it will malfunction further and cause serious injuries.1

2. Fractures

Manufactured from strong metal alloys, IVC filters are designed to stay in one piece for the duration of time they are implanted in the patient. But defective devices may fracture into pieces, which may then:

  • cause blood clots to flow through what remains of the filter,
  • travel away from the implantation site, and/or
  • lodge into veins and organs

Fractured filters can be especially difficult for surgeons to remove because the legs ("struts") are so thin and tiny. If the pieces have traveled to all over the body, the surgeon may have to do multiple operations or else leave the pieces in place.2

3. Migration

Inferior vena cava devices that migrate can lodge into organs and cause serious damage.

IVC filters are designed to stay in one place, usually to be retrieved at a later date. Most of them have feet at the end of each strut to holds the device still. But defective devices may migrate ("travel") away from the implantation site. 

Traveling filters can cause serious injuries. For one, they are no longer in position to stop blood clots. And by traveling, the device can pierce, perforate, or lodge into a vein or organ. And if the filter fractures, each piece could migrate to a different location and become totally irretrievable.3

4. Piercing and perforating 

Most IVC filters have narrow struts that could easily scratch or penetrate through a vein or organ wall. This is especially true if the device fractures or travels, causing the sharp struts to spiral through the patient's bloodstream and slash any tissue in its wake. 

In the most serious cases, IVC devices can pierce through a major vein or an organ, such as the heart or lungs. And depending on the situation, this could cause permanent injury or possibly death.4

5. Deep vein thrombosis 

The specific purpose of IVC filters is to help manage existing blood clots (such as deep vein thrombosis, "DVT"). However, "[r]ecurrent DVT is a well-known complication of IVCF use."5

If doctors detect new DVT in time, they may be able to fix the problem through such "endovascular therapies" such as:

  • catheter-directed therapy (CDT),
  • mechanical thrombectomy (MT),
  • balloon venoplasty, and
  • stenting

But as with any solution, these remedies carry their own potential risks and complications. 

6. Cardiac tamponade 

Cardiac tamponade as a complication of IVC filters occurs when fluid builds up in the heart's pericardial space. This pressure compromises heart function and may cause it to stop beating. Initial symptoms often include lightheadedness and shortness of breath.

When an inferior vena cava filter -- or a piece of the device -- travels to the heart, it may cause a wound that could lead to cardiac tamponade. In some cases, surgically removing the device from the heart may save the patient. But it may be too late in other cases.6

7. Clogging

IVC filters are like little cages that trap blood clots. But sometimes the devices themselves become so clogged with clots there is little or no room for the patient's bloodstream to flow through. 

Clogged IVC devices often present the same symptoms as the original blood clot itself: pain and swelling. Surgeons may be able to remove and replace the clogged device. But as with any procedure, this carries risks.7

8. MRI complications

MRI machine
Stainless steel IVC filters like the Greenfield model may be pushed out of place by MRIs.

MRI (short for magnetic resonance imaging) is a type of body scanning that relies on magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images of the body's internal anatomy and organs.

MRIs are usually safe to perform people with IVC filters manufactured without ferromagnetic materials. But if the filters do contain ferromagnetic materials, an MRI could cause them to move out of place; this in turn could lead to any of the aforementioned complications. 

Therefore, patients with an IVC device should make sure it has no ferromagnetic materials prior to an MRI. Some ferromagnetic materials are iron, cobalt, stainless steel and nickel.8

9. Removal and retrieval

There are many possible surgical ways to remove IVC filters depending on the type of IVC device and its position. Replacement procedures to implant an alternative device are sometimes indicated. But as with all operations, there are risks such as infection, bleeding, and formation of new clots. 

The FDA recommends that IVC filters be removed as soon as they are no longer necessary.9 But if the device is defective in any way, the surgeon may have to deviate from the standard removal techniques. And if the filter is particularly embedded or beyond reach, the surgeon may be unable to remove the filter ever; this could lead to more of the aforementioned injuries and complications. 

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For a FREE consultation with our IVC filter attorneys, call (855) 396-0370 today.

10. Compensation for your IVC filter injuries

Our medical device lawyers have a singular mission: To do everything possible to recover the biggest financial rewards possible for you including funds to pay for your: 

  • medical bills
  • pain and suffering
  • lost wages
  • loss of future earnings

Phone us now at (855) 396-0370 for a case evaluation and to talk about your legal options. Everything is confidential, the initial consultation is free, and you do not pay a cent unless we win your case. Just be sure to contact us soon before your IVC filter lawsuit statute of limitation passes.

Legal References

  1. See D. Semaan, M.Raythatha Esq, A. Burgin, A. Harb, "Inferior vena cava filters: A contemporary review", Applied Radiology (February 21, 2011). 
  2. See Tamer Hudali, Ali Zayed, and Bernard Karnath, "A fractured inferior vena cava filter strut migrating to the left pulmonary artery", Respir Med Case Rep. 2015; 16: 3–6. (June 12, 2015).
  3. Matthew N. Peters, MD, Rashad H. Khazi Syed, MD, Morgan J. Katz, MD, John C. Moscona, MD, Vikram S. Nijjar, MD, and Mohannad B. Bisharat, MD, "Inferior Vena Cava Filter Migration to the Right Ventricle Causing Nonsustained Ventricular Tachycardia", Tex Heart Inst J. 2013; 40(3): 316–319.
  4. See Asad Jehangir, Andrew Rettew, Bilal Shaikh, Kyle Bennett, Qasim Jehangir, Anam Qureshi, Sharjeel Arshad, and Adam Spiegel, "IVC Filter Perforation through the Duodenum Found after Years of Abdominal Pain", Am J Case Rep. 2015; 16: 292–295.
  5. See Jessica M. Andreoli, MD, Bartley G. Thornburg, MD, and Ryan M. Hickey, MD, "Inferior Vena Cava Filter–Related Thrombus/Deep Vein Thrombosis: Data and Management", Semin Intervent Radiol. 2016 Jun; 33(2): 101–104 ("Heterogeneity in the length of follow-up and patient populations within different studies makes it difficult to compare DVT rate among filter types. However, a review of several case series suggested that among permanent filters, DVT may be more common with the stainless steel Greenfield filter. Rates of DVT with retrievable IVCFs range in the literature from 0.8 to 18%. The highest rates reported were with the ALN (ALN International Inc., Bormes les Mimosas, France) and Option filters (Argon Medical Devices Inc., Athens, TX). In a prospective study by Mismetti et al, 15.2% of patients experienced DVT after ALN filter placement, 84% of which occurred during the first 3 months. Johnson et al demonstrated a DVT rate of 18% in a prospective study utilizing the Option filter.")
  6. See Chandra PA, Nwokolo C, Chuprun D, Chandra AB, "Cardiac tamponade caused by fracture and migration of inferior vena cava filter", South Med J. 2008 Nov;101(11):1163-4.
  7. See What are the Symptoms of a Broken IVC Filter? Palm Vascular.
  8. See D. Semaan, M.Raythatha Esq, A. Burgin, A. Harb, "Inferior vena cava filters: A contemporary review", Applied Radiology (February 21, 2011). 
  9. "Notable decrease in IVC filter usage after FDA advisory Significant decrease in inferior vena cava filter implantation following FDA safety communication. implantation rates remain high compared to rates in Europe," Science Daily (July 10, 2017).

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