What is it?
The inferior vena cava (IVC) is the large vein in the abdomen that returns blood to the heart from the lower body. In patients who have deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the veins of the legs or pelvis), the clots can break up and large pieces could travel to the heart or lungs. An IVC filter traps these large pieces of blood clot and prevents them from traveling through the IVC, which could potentially cause death.
Depending on the severity of your deep vein thrombosis, you may need an IVC that is permanent or one that can be taken out.
What is it for?
The device traps blood clots and stops them from moving into the lungs. You may need this procedure if you’re at risk for a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is potentially fatal as a blood clot in the legs moves to the lungs and gets embedded in a blood vessel. This clot can stop blood flowing into the lungs.
How to prepare
- You will give your health care provider your medical history and any history of allergies
- You may need some preliminary tests prior to the procedure to evaluate your health
- You may need to stop taking some medications
- You will be given instructions about what to eat and drink
- You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure
- Bleeding or infection at the catheter location
- Vein damage
- Allergic reaction or kidney problems from the X-ray dye
- Problems with filter placement, clogging, breaking or moving out of place
- Anesthesia or medicine risks from procedure
What happens during?
- The procedure takes about an hour
- You will receive sedation through an I.V.
- The area might be numbed with an anesthetic
- A small incision will be made to access a major vein going to the IVC. The incision is done on your neck or groin.
- A catheter is placed in this major vein
- X-rays or ultrasound will help the health care provider position the catheter into the IVC. Dye, a contrast material, might be put into the catheter to show the precise location of the IVC on the X-rays. If ultrasound is used, gel is applied over the skin. A device called a transducer is positioned over the skin and sends images of blood vessels to monitor.
- The filter is discharged into the IVC and filter expands and connects to the IVC walls
- The catheter is removed
- The incision is closed and bandaged
What happens after?
- You will be sent to the recovery room where your vital signs will be monitored
- You may feel groggy and have a headache or nausea
- You will be given pain medicine if necessary
- You should be able to go home on the same day as the procedure
- Avoid exercise and get rest for the first 24 hours
- You will be given instructions on how to care for the catheter site
- You will have follow-up appointments to check on the treatment
- Sometimes the filter will be removed in a similar procedure if your deep vein thrombosis has subsided and the filter is the removable type
- You may have some pain and a bruise where the catheter was located
- You should call your health care provider immediately if you are at home and:
o The incision site bleeds, swells, leaks fluid, becomes red or warm
o You experience coldness or numbness in your limbs
o You have fever, chest pain, headache or nausea that doesn’t go away