Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Placement

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If you’re at risk of a pulmonary embolism, you might need an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter. IVC filters stop blood clots from moving from your legs to your heart. Blood clots in the legs are first treated with blood thinners.

We often use IVC filters for people who can’t take blood thinners or whose clot is not responding to blood thinners. This small, metal device can save your life.

How an IVC Filter Works

A blood clot in your legs, known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is a serious condition. That clot could travel to your heart and then to your lungs. This can kill you.

An IVC filter goes in the vein brings blood back from your legs to your heart that is called the inferior vena cava (IVC). The device doesn’t stop blood clots from forming, but it does catch moving blood clots and stops them from reaching the heart.

What to Expect

Your provider will schedule routine exams and testing before the procedure. Tell your provider about your current medications.

We’ll only need to use local anesthesia for this procedure. It takes about 30 minutes.

First, we numb a small area of skin at the base of your neck or the top of your leg. Through a small cut, we insert a small tube, called a catheter, into your veins. We then use imaging with contrast injections to see the veins.

We place the filter in your IVC through this small catheter. Once in place, the filter springs open. This filter allows healthy blood to flow but at the same time stops most clots.

After the IVC Placement

After the procedure, we’ll have to monitor most people for just a short time. Most patients go home the same day.

You can expect to be able to walk after discharge. To help your recovery:

  • Keep the incision clean
  • Avoid heavy lifting or straining in the bathroom for 3 days

Most IVC filters should be removed when no longer needed. We'll do a similar procedure to collapse and remove the filter.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.