There are many drugs and medical devices that start out innocent enough: they are designed to help patients address difficult medical conditions and the benefits outweigh the risks in these specific situations. However, a common problem has occurred in which products become overused, over-marketed, and either used off-label or not according to manufacturer’s directions. This is certainly the case for IVC filters. Not only were they overused, but many times they were left in patients causing added risks to patient health.
Fortunately, a study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology found that IVC filter sales have dropped drastically over the past decade. “Between 2009 and 2015, IVC filter utilization across the United States declined by 36.3% in the Medicare population and by 26.6% in the privately insured population,” explained a statement from the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.
This decline in sales is a win for patients due to the overuse and risks that these devices pose. IVC filters are prongs that form a tent-like structure to trap blood clots in the inferior vena cava, a large vein that carries blood to the heart. If a blood clot enters the heart or lungs, irreparable damage could take place.
IVC filters were supposed to be used in patients who were diagnosed with blood conditions that would be harmed from use of anticoagulants. “Filters should be considered for patients who cannot be anticoagulated and for those who fail anticoagulation for proximal DVT [deep vein thrombosis] or PE [pulmonary embolism],” states Akhilesh Sista, MD, FSIR, section chief and associate professor at New York University Langone School of Medicine.
IVC filters should only be used in these extreme circumstances due to the added risk they bring to patients. IVC filter prongs may break and migrate causing tissue damage and can even lodge in the heart. It has also been found that even though these medical devices have been labeled “retrievable” – meaning they should be removed after 29 to 54 days in most cases – many doctors fail to take these devices out of their patients putting them in danger.
Clearly the decline of IVC filter sales is a win for patients. These new statistics mean that doctors are carefully analyzing patient health verses the danger of using this device. If you have one of these medical devices or have an upcoming surgery which may involve an IVC filter, be sure to discuss any questions you may have with your doctor to ensure that this is the best option for your health.