Between 350,000 and 600,000 people each year in this country are affected by blood clots and between 100,000 and 180,000 people die of pulmonary embolism each year. A vena cava filter, also known as an inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter), is a small device that functions like a catcher’s mitt to prevent blood clots from traveling to lungs (pulmonary embolism), but allows healthy blood to pass. IVC filters are a treatment option for those individuals who can’t take blood thinning drugs or who develop clots despite medication and remain at risk for pulmonary embolism.
Using image guidance, a catheter is inserted through the skin into a blood vessel in the neck or groin and advanced to the inferior vena cava in the abdomen. The IVC filter is then placed through the catheter and into the vein where it will attach itself to the walls of the blood vessel. Some types of IVC filters, called “retrievable IVC filters” can later be removed by an interventional radiologist.