“Inferior vena cava [IVC] filters are frequently used to prevent subsequent PE [pulmonary embolisms]; nearly one in six of elderly Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries with PE received an inferior vena cava filter,” Behnood Bikdeli, MD and his colleagues wrote earlier this month in a popular medical journal. “However, the evidence supporting device efficacy and safety is scant.”
Blood clots can occur in the body for a variety of reasons, but if they travel to your lungs, a major blood vessel or artery could get blocked and can cause severe damage to the lungs or possibly even death. There are several ways that doctors try to prevent PE, one of the most popular ways is to use a medical device called an IVC filter. Unfortunately, IVC filters have been linked to harming a large number of patients and recent studies are confirming that it may cause more harm than good.
An IVC filter is shaped like the frame of an umbrella and this “cage” is inserted into the IVC, the largest vein in the body, to prevent clots from traveling to organs where they could cause damage. Here are the important results to glean from this latest study:
- Patients who received an inferior vena cava filter had a higher death rate compared with those who did not (11.6% vs. 9.3%).
- For patients who survived past the initial 30 days, the 1-year mortality rate was 20.5% for those with an IVC filter and 13.4% for those in the control group.
The patients involved in this study were a minimum of 65 years old with the average age being 77.8 years and were diagnosed pulmonary embolism from 2011 to 2014. “Our study … does not suggest an association between inferior vena cava filter use and lower mortality rates,” Bikdeli and colleagues concluded. “Instead, our study showed hypothesis-generating findings for increased risk.”
An alternative option to prevent PE is to take a blood thinner medication. David Brown, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study, brought up a critical point: “The current study seems to have taken all-comers — those with and without a contraindication to anticoagulation. Clinical trials have already demonstrated that there is no mortality benefit to IVC filters in patients who can be anticoagulated.” This means that if a patient can take blood thinners, there’s no reason why they should have the added risk of an IVC filter implant.
IVC filters can erode, break apart, puncture tissue and organs, and cause severe damage in the body. If you have an IVC filter or have a history of blood clots, talk to your doctor today to protect your health.