An Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) filter is a treatment to prevent pulmonary embolism (PE)—a potentially life-threatening problem from a blood clot in the pulmonary arteries from deep vein thrombosis (DVT)—a blood clot in a vein deep inside the body, usually in the leg. DVT can become life-threatening if the clot breaks apart and large pieces travel through the bloodstream. The IVC filter is a small, basket-like device made of wire that is inserted into the inferior vena cava, a large vein that returns blood from the lower body to the heart and lungs. IVC filter blocks clot pieces from reaching the heart and lungs while allowing blood to flow around it.
IVC filters are generally used when drug therapy for DVT is ineffective or inappropriate. IVC filters are inserted via a minimally invasive procedure in which the patient is under local anesthesia. An interventional radiologist or vascular surgeon inserts a thin tube called a catheter into one of the patient’s blood vessels, usually the femoral vein in the groin or jugular vein in the neck. Using special imaging techniques and a guide wire, the physician moves the catheter through the blood vessels to the location where the filter will be placed. The filter is pushed through the catheter into the desired position, and the catheter is removed.