An inferior vena cava filter, or IVC filter, is a tiny medical device used to prevent potentially fatal pulmonary embolisms – blood clots that cause blockages in arteries in the lungs. The inferior vena cava is the largest vein in the body, carrying blood from the lower body back to the heart. The IVC filter looks like a metal cage and is inserted into the inferior vena cava to “catch” blood clots that form before they can travel to the lungs where they can be life-threatening. The device was developed for use in patients who are at risk for pulmonary embolism, but who cannot use anticoagulants (blood thinners).
Under certain circumstances doctors will recommend the insertion of an IVC filter, usually when use of anticoagulants would create a risk of uncontrolled bleeding. Typical cases where IVC filters are used include gunshot and stab wounds, spinal cord injuries, serious falls, cancer diagnosis or treatment, emergency surgeries, dialysis treatment, car accidents, and in mothers who have just given birth.
IVC filters were first approved for use in 1979 by the U.S. food and Drug Administration and over the years they came into frequent usage. However, patients started to report adverse effects from the devices. By 2010, the FDA issued a safety alert for product complications regarding use of IVC filters, particularly those manufactured by Cook Medical and C.R. Bard. These complications include the following:
Additionally, some patients develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT), an embolization surrounding the filter, or blockage that causes the legs to swell. Some cases require emergency removal of the filter which can mean invasive, risky and costly surgery.
The 2010 safety alert warned doctors that because of the risk of complications with IVC filters, they should be removed after the danger of pulmonary embolism was no longer an issue. The alert was updated by the FDA in 2014 to emphasize that the longer the device remained in place, the greater the risk to the patient of developing problems.
The FDA warning in 2010 was issued in part because there had already been at least 900 reports of adverse reactions associated with IVC filters. Nationwide, many patients have suffered severe complications and injuries resulting in product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers of the devices. In addition to Cook Medical and C.R. Bard, multiple lawsuits over failed IVC filters manufactured by Rex Medical and distributed by Argon Medical have been filed.
If you or someone you love has experienced medical complications after the insertion of an IVC filter, contact a skilled Wilmington product liability lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. We will fight to hold the manufacturers of defective products accountable and get you the compensation you deserve. Call 800-355-1818 today to schedule a free consultation about your case. You can also complete our online contact form. From our Wilmington and Georgetown offices we serve clients in upstate and downstate Delaware.