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Inferior vena cava filters (IVCF) are placed to prevent deep venous thromboses (DVT) from traveling to the heart and lungs, causing pulmonary embolism.  They are considered life-saving devices that can prevent a patient from suffering a pulmonary embolism in cases where the patient cannot take an anticoagulant.  Concerns have been raised that patients who have an IVC filter implanted are at an increased risk of serious complications, including device perforation of major blood vessels.

A study published January 2017 in the journal JAMA Surgery suggests that not all patients who receive the filters actually need them, meaning they could needlessly be put at an increased risk of complications.  Researchers sought to answer whether implantation of an IVC filter in trauma patients affected their chances of survival.  They found that if a patient survived 24 hours, the use of an IVC filter did not improve chances of survival.  In follow-ups of six months and one year from discharge, there was similarly no significant difference between those who had a filter and those who did not.

The study concluded that the use of IVC filters in trauma patients should be reexamined because although the filters are meant to be removed, they frequently are not, “and there is an increased risk of morbidity in patients with filters that remain in place.”

In an opinion piece published in JAMA Cardiology, authors wrote “There is still a need for IVC filter use in certain patients, but that the indiscriminate use of IVCFs without clear indications places patients at risk of serious complications, and we do not support this practice.”  For patients at risk of pulmonary embolism who do not tolerate anticoagulants, IVC filters may still provide an important, life-saving option.

Plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against the companies that make IVC filters.  The complaints indicate that they were harmed by the devices that were supposed to save their lives.

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