IVC filters are implanted in order to prevent blood clots, which develop from deep vein thromboses (DVT) and pulmonary emboli (PE). DVT’s occur when a blood clot forms deep within a vein, such as the leg. PE’s exists when that clot travels upward toward the heart and lungs. When PE and DVT exist together, it is referred to as venous thromboembolism, or VTE.
The primary solution to blood clotting is the prescription of an anticoagulant. However, if a recent trauma, planned surgery, or a high risk situation is present, such a medication may not be a viable option. Thus, in order to prevent complications from clotting when an anticoagulant is unavailable, an IVC filter can be implanted.
Regarding pulmonary emboli, they occur when the pulmonary artery (which is the major blood vessel within the lungs) or one of its branch arteries witnesses blockage from a blood clot.
Typically, such blood clots are not lethal because they are too small to cause severe blockage. However, larger clots can preclude even blood flow within arteries and veins, causing severe injuries and even death.
The most common instance of PE is from a blood clot in the leg that breaks loose, then ascends to the lungs. Blood clots that originate within veins close to the skin are not as problematic. On the other hand, blood clots that originate in veins deeper within the body are susceptible to causing dangerous clots. This “deep vein thrombosis” is discussed below.
Other sources of PE include:
- Long-term inactivity, such as staying in bed or sitting for long periods of time in a car, plane, or at work
- Surgery involving the brain, hips, legs, or belly
- Cancer, heart failure, severe infection, or stroke
- Pregnancy and childbirth, and more commonly if birth by cesarean section.
- Administration of hormone therapy or birth control pills
- Older adults are susceptible to PE’s if they are at or over 70 years-old, or obese
Deep vein thrombosis (DVD) is a closely related blood clotting condition. It occurs specifically when blood clots develop within the vein, and more commonly in deep veins within the pelvis, thighs, or legs. Although they can develop in the upper extremities, these would be rare events because such formation would be the result of a traumatic accident, an indwelling catheter, or other medical device implant.
According to WebMD.com, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms cause over 300,000 deaths annually.